You can always tell when the shared bravado has left the confines of your helicopter cabin and everyone including you is now seriously concerned. Call it, the suddenly sterile cabin. Single pilot VFR helicopter flights in marginal weather are nothing new and frequently, experienced passengers have as much,or more time in that environment than the pilot.
Today the probability that the pilot in command has less “time” flying in marginal weather than some of his or her passengers is very likely.
Back in the early eighties I had the good fortune to have an excellent Chief Pilot who introduced me to the world of flying to; on and off Target Ships.These Target Ships were operated by a branch of the U.S. Navy.The weather we flew in was typical southern California off shore and ranged from sunny to foggy with winds from nuthin to gale force. The misconception that California has great all year round weather is reinforced in the media but typical offshore weather is different. You are 70 miles out to sea,the wind is blowing at a pretty steady 30 knots and the temperature before the wind chill is about 55 degrees. It may be 85 degrees and calm back on the coast but here it feels like about 35 degrees and the fog is almost on the water.
Bryan ,my Chief Pilot had given me the benefit of his many ship landings. At the time I am fairly certain there was nobody in the world who had as many landings on World War II ships as Bryan. The target ships were somewhat salvaged destroyers, “Fletcher Class”. Our job was to support the ships in an exercise that had the Navy trying their best to hit the ships with a missile and the defense contractor trying their best to prevent that from happening.
It wasn’t an on paper exercise either. The missile firings against our ships were live launches and firings conducted in international waters. The whole program is public knowledge now and I can talk about most of the things we saw and did. The flying was at times pretty exciting and there were as many humorous events as there were startling.
I have a few blogs coming up on those times and I hope you enjoy the stories.
More to come