Helicopter Safety Tips if you Shoot From One
Posted 06 July 2006 - 11:04 PM
Still In My Mind And Sorry To bring Back this Topic but I was back And Yes I will Reopened. Just I did read About if Somebody Can Post some Safety Tips when you shooting from a HElo. This Remind me An Article that I did read on 1994 About Steadicam Inventor Garret Brown about safety thing on Steadicams. Here Some Tips From my perspective of been a steadicam OP and a Helicopter Pilot/Instructor, Hope this will help many of yours questions.
1. If you are afraid of Been in a Helicopter Do Not go for a Ride and less for a Shooting, remember this is a Job and you can refuse to do it at any time. There are Many people with experience or good training that can do it
2. Make A Meeting with the Director, Client or Producer and Ask then what specific shoots they Want.
3. Always ask for a briefing with the Pilot, Take some time for This. Make A list for Possible shoots you are going to make it. Ask the Pilot if he is familiar with the Area. It is not Good to fly with somebody that is not familiar with the area you are filming.
4. Brief the Pilot about if you planing to fly low and check if the Area has a lot of electrical wires. Wires Strikes are the #1 cause of HElicopter fatalities. Do not be dangerous, remember safety first. Director can do the Shoot with Another instrument; do not try to put your self to the limits.
5. Do not Push the Pilot. Pilots has the ultimate responsability of the aircraft and also for all passengers.
6. Use as much as you can any Helicopter mount like (Tyler, Wescam, etc.) but because this is for general users Topic; if you go hand held, make your self comfortable and make shure there no restrictions to the camera. Ask the Pilot about what you can do and Do not.
7. Make shure you always have two way communication with the pilot at all time, Prove your head set before start up.
8. How many people come inside? MAke shure to bring at least people as possible. Pilots will say thanks if we are flying as much lighter as we can. Bring all accesories you need but not over fill the aircraft. Remember to secure all Item Inside because at one point you are going to open the door or you are already flying with out doors. A good thing is to put things in BAgs and secure then with safety straps.
9. When you are already on the air, try as much to not change the plan if change please let the pilot know with some anticipation and always with his approval.
10. Do not challenge or let any body to challenge the Pilot skills. Sometimes we can do great things but depends in the Pilot experience and confort with the manuever. I had one time this situation and what I did was to get back to the airport and ask then to look for another crazy pilot, I never will put my life and the crew life in danger because the Producer wants to pass under a cable about 30 feets from the ground. This is not ethical and against all good will of a good job.
11. Tell the pilot when you are shooting and when no, This helps a lot.
12. If you fill your self like seasickness or strange (remember you are looking a viewfinder or monitor and Everything is moving fast) ask the Pilot to land as soon as practical and do not hesitated for a minute of rest. He would do it if he find a place.
13. If you are have to exit the Helo, be at all times at the eyes of the pilot. Always exit by sides and in the Front of the Helicopter, never exit going back of the HElo there is a Tail Rotor, so Always side and Front
14. If you are flying low( Must of the time for shooting is Yes) make shure the Pilot knows the area well and if possible make him a high recon first before go low(I know he would do it). LOw means Flying altitudes below 300 feets.
15. 4 eyes see better than 2 If you see something strange or any obtacles tell the pilot about it I do not think he will be mad if you tell him.
16. Finally HE is the Pilot In Command at all time do not be rush by any Producer or director and less for money things. If they are Using a Helo they can not rush things. Helicopters are expensive and require Money from Producer and time to make the perfect shot. If they do not have enough money please do not use helicopters for filming. Filming takes time.
Well could be more But This was the Ones that came out of my Mind by now. I know there must be several ones and I am shure some Of you guy are pilots and can recommend some other.
Remember Do not put a Steadicam On A helicopter; They Are Uncompatible!!!
Steadicam Operator since 1995
Mk-V/PRO Hibrid Steadicam Owner
Posted 07 July 2006 - 12:24 AM
I might add,
NEVER carry anything above your shoulders.
Never approach the Helicopter without being signaled to do so by the pilot
Unless specifically instructed do not touch anything but the camera mount in the ship
While flying Listen to the pilot, If he hold up his hand to you or says hold on he is probably dealing with the radio's and needs to listen to what the controllers have to say.
If the pilot says no, the answer is no. he is the Pilot in command and legally has the last word no matter how powerful the producer thinks he is.
Posted 07 July 2006 - 04:35 AM
Best advice. Better to feel a bit of an idiot than die like one.
4 eyes see better than 2 If you see something strange or any obtacles tell the pilot about it I do not think he will be mad if you tell him.
Posted 09 July 2006 - 10:35 AM
I have been able to shoot some really nice work with the right pilot and plan in place. I have also had 2 very close calls to crashing myself. Once near a power-line that was not seen by anyone but finally seen by my Assistant Roland Schlotzhauer (Dead now by a helo crash) with the pilot?s quick reaction we avoided that crash in about 1996. The other was when flying with Roland's brother Bob who was also a helo pilot. We had an alarm sensor go off and Bob dropped from about 600 feet to 200 feet in about 6 seconds. That is enough to scare the crud out of anyone. In both cases a crash was avoided. Strangely enough I continued to fly after that for several years. Once flying gets in your blood....well, its a lot like Steadicam.
It was when I met Mr. Garrett Brown and he told me several stories of friends he had lost to crashes that I decided that gathering money in exchange for a roll of the dice as to weather or not I would live to see my wife and children again was worth it. I stopped flying about 3 years ago. My friend Roland did not. He had several hundred hours of experience and I am sure he had many more close calls than I. I know you have all heard of his untimely death but I just wanted to remind all of you that life is so short and precious. SEE Roland Tribute web site:
I do not expect this forum and my comments to change everyone's opinion about flying in a helo. I just hope that you do decide to fly that you heed the great advice in this topic from Fernando, Eric and Stephen Press. As I read this topic I realized that it took me 8 to 10 flights to gain the experience to know what Fernando wrote about. Nobody tells you this stuff so PAY ATTENTION. IF YOU MUST FLY HEED THIS ADVICE. But...if you can aviod flying that is my advice.
Roland Schlotzhauer Died doing what he loved to do, shooting aerials. He was 50 years old and left behind a wife, step daughter, and a 3 grandchildren. Sorry for pushing my opinions but I felt obligated.
Steven Fracol, SOC
Steadicam/VariCam Owner Operator
New Vision Pictures, Inc.
Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:04 AM
I think this is the Porpuse of this Site of disccussion, Share With Others About what we Love and Do every Day. I am Not an Expert but I encourage every body to Put their Experiences in the Good will of Future People that is doing This type Job. Thanks Also Eric & specially Stephenn you sound like My mind. Always Ask first and is better feel like One like Die like One.
Safe Fly you guys
Posted 09 July 2006 - 10:52 PM
Everything You Wanted to Know About Helicopter Safety ? but were afraid to ask?..
Ivars Berzins, of Pacific Crews in Wellington, is a cameraman, father and husband. Like many Kiwi operators, he spends a lot of time in helicopters shooting round New Zealand. These choppers are booked by the production companies he works for, and it often crosses his mind to ask ?How safe are they??. To find out, Ivars caught up with Air Crash investigator Tom McCready, of the CAA, to get the lowdown on helicopter safety.
So Tom: when did you first get involved in Helicopters?
About 30 years ago, 1975 I joined the airforce, so I?ve had 30 years of helicopters on and off really, largely helicopters though. I?ve worked on fixed wing as well so I have a reasonable cross section.
What about as air investigator of helicopter accidents, what drew you to this part of the industry?
I had a good friend of mine was killed in a helicopter accident with his parents. He was an engineering friend who I actually started off flying with, I?m a pilot myself, and he took up helicopter flying and hit some wires over by Kawerau, and killed his mum and dad in front of the whole family, so yeah, we were close friends, and yeah, I sort of got interested in the accidents after that really. And then this job came up reasonably shortly afterwards, so I jumped at it.
I guess you?ve seen some pretty horrendous crashes? What does the family of the deceased want to know from your investigation?
Yeah, yeah, I sure have. Its not always good news, but often when they are grieving people think that they want nice, good news to say that little Johnny that was killed with the best pilot in the world- but in reality what they want to know is just the facts, you know without the flowery bits.
Is pilot error or machine failure the most common cause of helicopter crashes?
Usually pilot error, although having said that there are very few accidents that I have been to where I can say one thing happened. Normally it?s a succession of little events all adding up to the big event.
Okay, what advice do you have for a freelance crew assigned to shoot out of a unspecified helicopter in a few days time, what advice would you give?
My one thing is to plan ahead as much as you can. I realise with news footage that you can?t always do that, but certainly with more planned footage you can. Plan ahead and know your operator, and out of that operator know your pilots. I practice what I preach, I?ve been around helicopters as I say for 30 years, I?m quite fussy who I fly with. I?ve flown with absolutely idiots in my earlier days, and I?ve learnt from that.
How can you recognise those idiots?
By knowing them, even in my engineering days we used to have a list of approved suppliers and I got to know the people. They weren?t always the cheapest parts we could buy, but I knew the people and I knew they weren?t going to give us dodgy parts, and the same as with your pilots. If you get to know your pilots, you?ll sometimes make up your mind, you know I like that guy or I don?t like that guy. I go off gut feeling quite often, and plus experience levels and all the rest of it.
But what if you are filming in another part of the country, and you can?t physically check out the pilot or the helicopter beforehand, what sort of phone checks can you make, or Internet checks.
There is a lot of information on the CAA website about various helicopters www.caa.govt.nz.
But typically in a broad, brush stroke analogy, a turbine helicopter is vastly superior to piston engine helicopters, and that?s to do with the turbine engine reliability. But also a major factor in helicopter filming work, is if you get a helicopter with plenty of excess power like a Squirrel helicopter, if the pilot makes an error, and they all make errors, but if you?ve got spare power you can get out of it.
I?ve often related flying to motorbikes, I ride 1200cc motorbikes myself, still do, have done for years. I find them easier to ride than a little scooter. Problem with a little scooter, is when the truck starts hassling you, you don?t have the power to do anything about it. But a bigger helicopter or a bigger motorbike you can just get out of there. And pilots will come in and do an approach, and they might make an error, or not appreciate the wind or the way to all sorts of little things that just add up, and suddenly they get in somewhere and they don?t have the power to get out of there and have another go. So the bigger turbine helicopters are a lot safer by a huge margin.
As well as that, the guys that are flying those helicopters because they are million dollar helicopters tend to be more experienced. Not many operators give young pilots the big flash helicopters, so although it comes down to dollars, you know, more experienced pilots will be flying the better helicopters as a rule.
Okay so, as a camerman I would get on the phone and ring up the pilot and ask him what sort of helicopter he has got.
Correct, yep for sure. You can get in an underpowered Robinson R22 helicopter flown by a 10,000 hour pilot, and you?ll be pretty well off. But if you get a turbine helicopter with a young pilot, things aren?t so good. So know your product, or know your pilots really. And you can do a lot of that in advance, if you got to know all the operators around NZ, you could say okay, if we?re going to the Manawatu, we will go to this guy, or in particular this pilot if you like, or you know if you are going to go down the South Island we will hire these people and no one else until they prove to us that they are worthy of being hired. So you can draw up an approved suppliers list, or you know have an accreditation system or whatever, that would my advice to you.
Often its not your call as a freelancer which helicopter you fly with, it?s a choice made by your client, but they are actually not on location on the day of the shoot, what?s your advice in this situation?
Much like practising what I preach, as an engineer I?ve been in that situation a number of times where suddenly you know, I can?t fly in that machine or go with that guy, I?ve refused to on a number of occasions, and you?ve just got to have the balls to do it.
What was your reason for refusing to fly?
One pilot turned up like he?d just gotten out of bed, you know, just a shambles, absolute shambles, running late, you know messy, and you know gut feeling, no, I don?t need to do this. You know I?ve seen enough accidents that I?ve just?..when I start having my doubts, and often when I look at an operator I?ve got my family? my wife and two children, young children, they?ve flown in helicopters, and I?d have no problems with it, but I?m very selective who they are flying with, I can assure you.
And gut feeling is very important?
Oh, you bet.
On the civil aviation side we have certified operators, where they have what we call a Part 135 certificate, that?s like an air transport ??now the recent accident that we had in Te Puke, I?m sure many cameramen are aware of that, (that report is not out yet) but you know here we had a cameraman on a commercial job thinking he was flying with a reasonably well off certified pilot. Well, he had a pilots licence but he was a private, just a private owner of a helicopter, and here they were flying in the dark with a helicopter with one light on, and they got in some problems, and all those little things just added up all of a sudden.
What sort of helicopter was it?
That was a Hughes 300.
Is that a safe helicopter to fly in?
One straight out of the factory would certainly be quite safe, they?ve got a good record, however, those helicopters tend to work in an agricultural role, and many helicopters in an agricultural role are fine, but many are thrashed to death. We recently published an article about R22 helicopters, and they are quite a reliable helicopter.
That?s a Robinson?
Sorry R22 Robinson, we published an article in our vector magazine, the CAA magazine about over loading of agricultural helicopters, and we know what we are talking about, and we have had lots of pilots tell us they routinely overload by not small amounts, by huge amounts, and we had a blade failure on an R22 Robinson. Now that has world wide implications, but in our investigation we found that it was quite rife right throughout the Ag industry, on the lower end helicopters, over loading, over boosting, over temping, all these things are quite common place. So those helicopters get a good thrashing, and then the TV cameraman comes along and gets in it.
I mean is this sort of overloading issue something that?s peculiar to NZ, are our pilots more liable to overload helicopters than in other countries?
Kiwi?s and Australians for some reason, they have a bit of a culture where they are doing it. Again at the lower end, yeah its fairly well established, and it?s quite routine.
Exceeding load limits on helicopters?
Yeah exceeding lots of limits, but balancing that out, there are some very good operators, I wouldn?t go slagging off the whole industry, but it is well accepted that there are a lot of people in the Ag industry who will overload helicopters excessively.
And I suppose that?s where in that industry, the agricultural industry, that?s where they helicopter is used to its maximum limits/
And then some, yeah, over revving the engine, over boosting the engine, all those sorts of things. But the important thing to remember from a TV cameraman perspective is that the helicopter that was thrashed 50 hrs previously hasn?t forgotten that its had a thrashing, no different to your car, you know its going to bite you eventually. You know when I started driving and my father kept saying stop doing those wheelies Tom: its not good for the diff, well eventually I smashed the diff, you know the old man knew, and the machinery doesn?t forget a hiding, and it might take a few hundred hours for it to come out, but it will bite you.
So the helicopter that?s now a passenger aircraft, might have been used in a previous life, for a much more strenuous activity.
That?s exactly my point, so know your operator, know your pilot, know the history of their machinery, you know there are ways of doing it that you can pre plan lots of things. Approved operators would be my?..certainly the CAA approved, general helicopter operators to an air transport level, but the TV cameramen people would probably have specific additional requirements, or standards that they wish to meet. There a number of organisations in NZ that have already instigated an accreditation schemes for their various operations. The tourist flight operators, tourists are saying, well we want a higher standard than the minimum set by CA and good on them. So all these tourist flight operators have got together Qualmark certification they are doing, and they have set higher standards and good on them. And you guys might like to do the same.
Is flying a helicopter simply an unsafe activity?
No, not at all, so I wouldn?t put my helicopters??you know there is always a certain amount of risks, just like getting out of bed in the morning you know. If you are going to go driving or whatever, there is a certain amount of risk in life really, but I?ve had 30 years of fairly incident free, I?ve probably had 3 minor frights in about 30 years, so that?s not bad going. I?ve not had a problem with helicopters, I?ve flown them in quite demanding situations, I?ve been to Antarctica, and cyclones in Fiji, and the navy boats, about three years in the Southern Ocean and things like that, and I?ve been recently to the Tsunami, you know quite demanding situations and you manage the risk really. I wouldn?t go with dodgy helicopters into those sort of environments.
How do our accident statistics in NZ compare with other countries?
I don?t have the figures in front of me, but I?m told they are quite bad. New Zealanders are very good at crashing helicopters. I assisted in writing a book on helicopter accidents, its called, ?Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots?, and in there we?.along with quite a few very experienced colleagues, we put together a collection of the causes of various helicopter accidents, and then got cases on those and gave real live sort of cases, where these things had occurred. Its quite interesting reading actually, I?m not pushing my book, I?m just pointing it out.
What?s your book called again?
Its called ?Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots?, the website is www.fataltraps.com, but you know I don?t want to paint a negative thing about helicopters. I do a lot of good flying in them, but they will bite you if you let them, risk management is what it?s all about. Identify the risks and either accept them or do something to minimise them, I?ve practised that for 30 years, before it became trendy?..That?s all the buzz words they?ve had in the last couple of years, well I?ve been doing that for years, and its seen me fairly well.
Once the cameraman is in the cockpit and lined up ready to film, what responsibilities does he have in relation to the pilot? I mean the pilot is obviously busy controlling the aircraft, and it?s a very complicated procedure?.
Yeah, that?s a good question, its not all about dodgy helicopters and dodgy pilots, sometimes a pilot can get overloaded, sometimes the cameraman hasn?t briefed the pilot very well. I know cameramen like to work out the sun angles and all that sort of things, that?s pretty basic, what they should also be aware of in a helicopter is the wind direction. A pilot will always prefer the wind on his nose, on the nose of the helicopter, sometimes you know things change, if you are chasing rally cars, or things like that, and a helicopter can get into??the worst thing is to be hovering, you know hovering requires more power, therefore you could say to the pilot, look stop here we want to hover, and you?re about 100 ft up, hovering with a tail wind is bad news. Some pilots you know they will manage it but they would much rather be turned round and nose into the wind if they could. So as well as that be aware of the wind, be aware of what you are asking the pilot to do, and some people get a bit caught up in the action, pilots as well, you know they are trying to do a good job, and sometimes things don?t go as well, and they do things they weren?t planning on doing, and suddenly they get themselves in trouble. However going back to my original statement, if you have a helicopter with plenty power, excess power, if things like that happen, the pilot can get himself out of it, its not problem, you know it happens all the time. You know pilots will reject a landing, or you know come into a hover and decide, no this isn?t looking good and they will power away, no problem, you wouldn?t even know they have done it. But if you are in a low powered helicopter it will bite you like cricket, because you don?t have the power to get out of it. Cases I remember, although a cameraman wasn?t involved, we were doing some filming by the old whole in the rock in the Bay of Islands. A pilot I knew and a passenger were filming the Quick Cat, you know the tourist boats that go through the whole in the rock, and they came into a hover, I think it was down wind and suddenly they lost their tail rotor, before they spun into the sea, and the pilot drowned, and that?s sort of getting more involved in the camera work and forgetting about the helicopter, you know?.
The pilots obviously have got a very complex job to do.
Oh yes, for sure, yeah, yeah and so if a cameraman sort of learnt a wee bit more about helicopters, and as I said we could do that by lecturing and education. Yeah what we call an out of ground effect hover, which is a 100ft above the deck, with a tail wind and a low powered helicopter is not a good look. You know you can get yourself into a bit of trouble, but pilots generally know what they are doing, but you can overload a pilot through poor planning is what I?m saying.
Is there anything else we should know about?
The information that is on the website, you can get into that, my rule of thumb, and I won?t slag off the lower end helicopters, but my rule of thumb personally is if I?m going to an accident and I need to be flown in, in tough terrain, I will generally go for a Squirrel, that?s my personal thing, because my previous boss John Funnell, he doesn?t go off the Auckland and Campbell Islands rescuing people in some old dungery old helicopter, he goes in a single engine Squirrel, cause he?s got reliability, he?s got great faith in his machinery, engine and helicopter, and his engineers and his own operation. I mean that?s pretty gutsy doing a lot of that. There are some very good Jet Rangers and Hughes 500?s around, there is also some bad ones, but as I say, when you get to the Squirrel level, they tend to start getting all fairly good.
There might be a few exceptions, but my personal level is the Squirrel. I?ll certainly get in Jet Rangers and Hughes 500?s if I know the people. So if I?ve got faith all the way through I?ll get into a Jet Ranger, they?re probably?..they?re quite a reliable helicopter if they are operated properly and maintained properly. Hughes 300?s not for me, Robinson?s not really.
How would you feel about a presentation to camera operators in a main centre, doing a kind of lecture, talking to us in person about your experience in the industry.
Love to. I would much rather do that than go to accidents, that latest accident up at Te Puke, that?s actually disgusting?.
Where the cameraman got killed?
I?m bloody angry over that one, however, there wont be much come out of it, I know exactly what?s happened but?.if I had my way I would fix a few things, but I?m not sure legally I?ll be able to, but yeah, I say I would rather?.. Helicopter cameramen can?.a lot of them when they get into a helicopter aren?t taught about the danger of tail rotors, loose equipment in the cabin, you know even a notebook, you have base ball cap, things like that, if that flies out of the cabin and hits the tail rotor, you are in big trouble, and it does happen. Most helicopter people are very aware of it, people hanging out of the doors like cameramen do, you?ve got loose gear or notebook in your pocket or things like that, you don?t want that coming out of your pocket. IF I was to equip a cameraman, you know if I wasn?t limited by finances, I?d seriously consider a helmet, if you are doing a lot of it I?m saying, not you know if you only going to do it once a year maybe its not worth it. Helmets are very useful if you are doing a lot of it. I go to a lot of accidents where head injuries have killed them, you know quite a certainty will be to smack your head, or you know its not that strong, so I?d consider a helmet, they?re probably?.oh a reasonable one would be $1,500, $2,000.
Have some choppers got them?
Not helmets, a lot of them fly just with headsets.
A proper protective helmet in case you smack?lets say okay everything is added up and you?ve decided today is the day you are going to have an accident, there is a couple of important things there that I?ve seen people?because cameramen don?t tend to be well restrained, because they are hanging out a bit on a strap, they?re not that well restrained, say in a set?so they all get thrown around there is no questions, so when they get thrown around, they can count of smacking their head, I mean that is going to happen. If you have got a helmet on, it?s a smart move, and like I say $1500, $2000 would buy you a fairly good one, and often the aviation one will have all the comms as well. So you can talk to the pilot directly without?.you know plug straight into the thing if you?ve got an aviation helmet. However not everybody wants to do that. If you?re over water I would go and invest in my own life jacket, the inflatable ones. Hutchwilco put out a few, if you just get some bloody lifejacket and is loafing down the back of the helicopter for ages, and you know those little old yellow ones they?ll dish out to you, I?d rather have my own. You know you said the other day about going into Kapiti, you know without a life jacket can you swim from Kapiti to the mainland, well no, so why would you fly without a life jacket. I mean I don?t?. I fly myself over Cook Strait, I?ve always got a life jacket on. A number of people have gotten out of aircraft wrecks quite well in the water and drowned. As well as that probably a cheaper option, you know the flying suit type overalls, Nomecs that the airforce?s guys wear, those are available commercially and more than a green colour. The useful thing with those, is people often get hurt in a crash through a flash fire rather than a sustained fire, something exploding the flash fire will get them, and the airforce know that and that?s why they have Nomecs flying overalls. They are not fire proof, but they are fire resistant and have zip up pockets, so you are not going to have things like a notebook coming out of your pocket, flying into the tail rotor. All the things you?ve got are fastened down, that?s why they wear them. There is lots of things that a cameraman can do to minimise the risk. And I?m sure we can put a good lecture together.
Posted 22 August 2006 - 07:54 AM
Good interview. Having done quite a lot of aerial work in Oz and some in the south of the land of the Long white cloud and too much in Asia I can identify with a lot of it. Most important. When the production company say they have 1 mil worth of insurance, ask for 5. I mil will pay of the mortgage and look after the family when you die, 5 will cover the refit of the house and medical bills if you're a paraplegic.