Whirlybird Weenies – a Pox upon Them

Okay, I know that all us airplane geeks need to band together and present a united front to groundlings, government slugs and other anti-aviation gangsters who want to restrict our flying pursuits … but I have to say it … I can’t bloody stand helicopters. And I really can’t stand the bloody things at airports. Have I got your attention?

Igor Sikorsky was the anti-Christ. Helicopters don’t fly – they’re so ugly the earth repels them. A helicopter is a collection of moving parts flying together in loose formation. Most of us have heard the jokes – many of my fixed wing colleagues believe them. And many of us are tired of having the damned things around airports.

Helicopters do not belong at airports. Period. They fly nothing like airplanes and their wake turbulence can wreak havoc with Cubs and other light airplanes. I have Cub friends who refuse to taxi with helos hovering nearby, and at Montgomery they’re a hundred feet from taxiway Hotel, the only east/west taxiway. They launch from those locations and the rotor wash and associated wake turbulence is a danger.

In the last six months at Montgomery Field (I write this in November, 2013), I have experienced a number of close encounters with helicopters in the traffic pattern. There is an operator at the airport who has been very successful at enticing normally sane humans into the perverse world of the whirlybird. When these helo drivers are learning to fly, they clutter up Montgomery’s traffic pattern.

Montgomery has 6 runways: 28R & 28L, 23, and their reciprocals. These helo weenies will request a close pattern for operations on 23 (the wind is usually west-southwesterly at Montgomery and usually not stronger than 10 kts). They will remain north of 28R (the preferred runway for touch and go ops with the fixed wing crowd), climbing sometimes to 1000 feet MSL (the north single-engine fixed wing pattern is 1200 MSL).

Now I can co-exist with lotsa weirdness, but the worst of it happens when one of the whirlybird weenie instructors decides that she (usually) needs to do 180° auto rotations from 1500 MSL. On a couple of occasions, with the helo on its downwind for 23, I’ve heard the witch claim that she had the fixed wing traffic (me) in sight – and her bloody back was to me. Then the helo turned to the runway and executed its autorotation directly in front of me. I had my student turn away from the helo and continued in the pattern.

I don’t do drama on the radio, so when we returned from the lesson I called the Air Traffic Manager, a fine fellow, and voiced my complaints about the helo ops. Being the person he is, he investigated and called me back, telling me that he’d put in a call to the operator and that the operator would review their operations. The above pattern-altitude auto rotations stopped.

Still, it doesn’t matter. Oftentimes they depart Montgomery to the southeast, interfering with fixed wing operations in the south pattern. When they depart the helipads near taxiway Hotel, they’ll climb to 1000 feet MSL and cross over the center of the field, either for ops on Runway 23, or northbound into Miramar’s airspace, interfering with fixed wing traffic in the north pattern. Sometimes they’ll arrive from the southeast and under fly the fixed wing pattern to the south, coming precariously close to fixed wing traffic on base leg to 28L. They’re a bloody plague to fixed wing traffic.

Isn’t there an island somewhere off some coast that would welcome the goddammed rotary wing crowd; some place with deaf people who won’t be bothered by the obnoxious low level noise; some place where the only people they annoy are each other?

I realize that they sometimes perform a useful function – fire suppression, medevac ops, police pursuit – but, really, do they have to operate from airports? They don’t fly like airplanes – they shouldn’t be allowed to mix with airplanes. A pox upon them.

Posted in Rants