The swinging world of swing-wings
“Helicopters are really a bunch of parts flying in relatively close formation: all rotating around a different axis. Things work well until one of the parts breaks formation.”
I guess I’m not alone in admitting that I just can’t help looking up any time I hear a helicopter – well, the same can be said for airplane noises – but there’s just something spellbinding about the sounds of rotors beating the air into submission.
Igor Sikorsky, the undisputed ‘father’ of vertical flight, captured the lure of rotary-wing aircraft well when he said, “The helicopter is probably the most versatile instrument ever invented by man. It approaches closer than any other to fulfillment of mankind’s ancient dreams of the flying horse and the magic carpet.”
Of course, as much as we ground-dwellers are amazed by what helicopters can do, the people who fly them know firsthand, or more accurately stated, know with both hands and both feet that they’re not easy beasts to tame.
Ask a helicopter pilot to describe what it takes to master the art, and they’ll probably share the old adage of it being like trying to pat your head and rub your belly while standing on one leg. And that’s on a good day.
Compared to fixin’, flying is easy.
While it’s well understood how challenging helicopters are to fly, that’s a literal breeze compared to the skills and dedication needed by a swing-wing mechanic. The complexity of the aircraft’s controls, engine/clutch/transmission, main- and tail-rotor, etc., are challenging enough.
Then you have to add in the combined stresses, strains, and constantly changing levels of vibration placed on those components. All totaled, it means that, on average, a helicopter requires between two-to-four hours of maintenance for every hour of flight.
Think about that for a minute – (we’ll take an average here) three hours in the air typically requires up to nine hours in the hangar. No wonder not many people fly helicopters for fun. Sorry Igor, the cost of keeping them airworthy means today’s commercial helicopters are more like winged-Clydesdales than flying horses.
And woe is the helicopter’s mechanic. After the pilot has put her down for the day, the technician is responsible for doing everything needed get it ready to earn its “wings” again in the morning. And there’s always a deadline.
Whether they’re flying powerline patrol, fire-fighting, medevac emergency services, keeping the peace, or just gathering the news, helicopters are hard-working beasts. Every flight hour on the ground translates directly into its owner losing money.
On top of that, with all that pressure and responsibility bearing down on them, the typical maintainer is forced to spend up to a third or more of the rotorcraft’s “maintenance” time searching through volumes of paper logbooks to review the helicopter’s recent maintenance history. Knowing what’s been done by who, where, and when with what parts is step one on practically every task card.
Compared to all that, flying the blasted machine is a snap. But, there is a way to swing the paper logbook pendulum back in the mechanic’s favor – well, a bit anyway.
By having all of the helicopter’s paper logbooks and documents digitized by Bluetail, we can cut all the required pre-maintenance research down to a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. In a year, that adds up to hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars saved on routine maintenance alone. What’s not to love?
15-minutes at HELI-EXPO can save you a HELI-of-a-lot of money.
If saving loads of time and money while protecting all of your helicopter’s documents from loss sounds like the right move for your operation, stop by the ATP exhibit, booth # 9961 during HELI-EXPO 2022.’