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Hey, can you give me a ride after lunch, asked the mechanic?

Posted 9 years 234 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick

“Hey, can you give me a ride after lunch?”, asked the mechanic.

“Sure”, I said.  With maybe a hint of pride. I was building hours, after my newly acquired Rotorcraft Private Pilot’s License.  Goofing off in a R-22 Beta. This was in the old days before the throttle fine tuned the RPM all by itself. You, as the pilot had to do all that, just like a Bell 47. I had at least seventy hours, and I was already quite an expert. Or maybe not. At least I was being real careful. Then we had an accident just up the road, where a private owner crashed his brand new, shiny Robinson R-22. Hearing about that, listening to the local gossip, the media frenzy, and reading the accident report, left me confused. The owner appeared to be blaming the helicopter. That nitwit Frank Robinson again. It seemed they had arrived at a ten foot hover, two on board, and then the stupid flying machine had gone and lost rotor rpm. Then they had waffled about at ten feet. Then they had crashed, and rolled over, and, and… Not good. In fact, as the Chinese say: “Pooh How!” Which translates literally to “Not Good”, but in addition has a pleasing explosive sound. POOH! Not good. Hmmm…. It had me wondering. What lessons could I, an expert with seventy hours learn from this?

I consulted with a smiling old helicopter pilot I knew. This guy was ancient. Had to be sixty. Damn, that’s old. I was just a pup. He had stories up the Wazoo. Super nice guy. He listened quietly to my puzzled questioning. I wanted to know WHAT  had REALLY happened to that Robinson, and what could I do to NOT bend mine in a similar manner.  This funny dude taught me something I was always to remember. My instructor had never talked about this. Or practiced it. It wasn’t part of the syllabus. But this old boy held me spell bound. He told me to always shoot for a hover. So you don’t do a Hooray-Henry and come hot-rodding in, flare too hard, and bang your tail rotor on nasty obstacles. Like planet earth, fences, etc.  BUT  (ha-ha!), at the same time, to always be prepared for:

1.  An unexpected “low power available” issue necessitating a zero-zero landing.

2.  An unexpected “even less power available” issue requiring a run-on landing.

Oh, I said. Interesting. All news to me. But it made sense. It registered with me, because of the vivid drama and News coverage of that crash up the road. The good old boy helped me understand what had likely happened. It had been a hot summer’s day. No wind. Most likely, the new private owner (two up) had terminated his approach in a hover too high for the load and ambient conditions. Then struggled about, like a fish out of water, (AAAArrrrrghhhh!!) trying to flap about at ten feet. Lost Rotor RPM.  (Double Aaaaaarghhhhhhh!). Hit the ground hard. Rolled over. And blamed the helicopter.  And poor old Frank Robinson.

Oh, I said.  A light slowly going on in my little mind. The dim light of vague realization. I could visualize that scenario. So the solution…. Oh, I gettit. I gettit.

Always fly the approach allowing for:

1.  An unexpected “low power available” issue necessitating a zero-zero landing.

2.  An unexpected “even less power available” issue requiring a run-on landing. 

Thank you! He smiled. I remember tucking that little gem away in my tiny mind, and, coupled to the vivid image I now had of what had happened in the afore mentioned dramatic helicopter crash, I was a least marginally more brilliant.  A while later…

“Hey, can you give me a ride after lunch?”, asked the mechanic.


“Sure”, I said.  With maybe a hint of pride. I was building hours, after my newly acquired Rotorcraft Private Pilot’s License.  No problem. I can do that. After lunch, we fuelled up, and off we went.  She seemed to struggle a bit to get up into the hover. I put that down to my handling, and the fact that it was hot, and we had full fuel. No problem. By the time we got to our destination, I would have burned fuel, and all would be easy. In fact, by the time we arrived at our destination, I had already forgotten all about the struggle up to the hover. This was just another landing. Just another, normal, happy-clappy, and damn-I’m-good straightforward landing. Eh?


I arrived at eight feet, slowing right down. There was no wind, and the moment we starting losing ETL, it was immediately obvious that something was really wrong. You’ve gotta hate it when you figure out you’re still going down, fast, and you’re not wanting to. Butterflies erupted. Eyes bulged.  I’m pulling! But there’s no more power available?? For where the collective lever is now, all the way up, I should not still be going DOWN this quick?? Surely?? In  a nano second, somewhere, something, reminded me (Yoo-hoo!  HELLOOOOO??!) that I had actually talked this one over with that good old boy, and that I actually KNEW what to do. A couple of nano seconds later, I was on the ground, having achieved my first ever un-planned, spontaneous run on landing. Quickly trying to regain my mangled composure, I managed a struggling six inch hover taxy over to the hangar. Where we shut down, my mind still reeling. Whereupon, nonchalantly, the mechanic proceeded to access the baggage I didn’t know about, underneath each seat. Nothing much. Just his ham-and-pickle sandwiches. And a full formation of TSIO-520 AIRCRAFT CYLINDERS, weighing a bazillion pounds EACH.

Talk about Learning in vivid Technicolor.  I wasn’t to forget that fright in a hurry. Later, as a CFI, I learned to play the same trick on all my students. At some stage, in the class room, I would talk about unexpected low power scenarios, and that a good chopper jockey never allows himself to be taken by surprise. Always be prepared to smoothly transition into a zero-zero touchdown, or even a run-on landing.  Don’t hang about, all amazed and unhappy, at eight or ten feet, wondering what the Dickens is going on.  


Yes, the little darlings would nod. Thinking they understood. But not really understanding. (Har-har!) Then, I would mischievously await my chance in the air. When he’s getting real good, maybe just a little cocky, I would quietly hold my hand on the up-travelling  collective. As the student would pull in power, at six or eight or ten feet, he would suddenly discover there was no more power available. The collective wouldn’t go up any higher. He would yelp: “You’re holding down the collective!”   And I would say, all innocently: “No, I’m not”. Whilst holding down the collective. And sometimes, If I had time, I’d murmur aloud “Ho-Hummmmm…. I wonder wot’s happening??” And more often than not, the little darling would panic , squirm and SQUEAK, much to my delight, and utterly fail to react correctly. That would be a case of “I have control!”, and then a go around, and reminding a now chastened  Flying Ace Bloggsy Baby of the requirement to always be prepared for these unexpected issues.  I found I could always catch Bloggsy at least once. After that, a while later, you would hold your hand on the collective towards the end of the approach, and all you would get is this crafty smile on his face, as he was now wise to the gag. There would follow a nice smooth run-on or zero-zero landing… Lesson learned.

With many, many more, in a never ending sequence, still to come…



A Little About Moggy  - Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick admits to not being terribly bright, but he did first grace the skies (more or less) totally on his own some forty-five years ago. He is rumored to have solemnly intoned these memorable words on the downwind leg:

“Holy Crap! NOW what have I done…?”

He is working dutifully on his eighty-sixth incarnation (he does, admittedly, get sent back a lot – for another try) , and he describes himself as a ‘chopper jockey’. He says it’s basically a case of a nut, hanging under a nut. (BIG nut, though).  Compared to trying to attain Wisdom (he was a Buddhist monk once) (before he got demoted to galley hand), he reckons it beats working for a living.  It ranks right up there with being a happy penguin, and spending all day sliding down icy slopes.

Moggy loves spinning a good yarn, and his greatest reward is simply your enjoyment. His many friends caution you he does tend to tell his bar stories with verve and gusto, and much arm waving, so you are advised to move your pints and other drinks safely out of his way. Peace. Got a pickle sandwich?