here has always been a need for good quality,competent long line pilots; the kind who canbring a load right to your hand with virtually nooscillations, and who are right outside the cockpit bothphysically and mentally. These folks are like gold dust,and the industry had been crying out for a course thatcould build the foundations of a professional long linepilot. In response to this cry, and in partnership withColumbia Helicopters Inc. (CHI), Long Beach based LosAngeles Helicopters (LAH) developed a Part 133 approvedProfessional Long Line Course that does just that. The course delivers one-of-a-kind long line training,beginning with the introduction of Direct VisualOperational Control (DVOC), better known as ‘VerticalReference’; the ability to fly without reference to thehorizon, a technique developed by CHI’s pioneer WesLematta and the first step in learning to ‘fly a line’. The next stage is landing on ‘Alaskan-style’ heliports,and then flying a 200ft steel line. Upon successfulcompletion, the company can issue graduates a Part133 Rotorcraft External Load Operation Statement of Competency, which, let’s face it, is a pretty useful thing tohave on your resumé. First things first though, masteringthis unbelievably challenging skill is not as easy as theprofessionals make it look.
Don’t try this at home kiDs
Andre Hutchings, Director of operations at LAH,CFI and Command Pilot for CHI climbs aboard the R44Clipper II and demonstrates the most stable hover andlanding you ever saw; the thing is he’s hanging rightout the door, looking back at the aft skid crosstube thewhole time. That’s weird enough, but he makes it look like a piece of cake. We watch in astonishment as severalthousand-odd-hour instructors jump in to try their hand,thinking “This should be okay, I’ve lifted to a hover amillion times before – how hard can it be?” only to findthemselves completely humbled as the ship goes crazyand starts dancing about like a wild boar! There really is no preparing yourself for the intimidationyou endure as it sinks in that you can’t even hover that
Early morning ou in perrisValley, where sudens racicehook shos and landing on logs.
darned helicopter, let alone place the skids precisely ontotwo logs. You desperately want to look up at that horizon,but instead you’re forcing yourself to look behind you. It’slike déja vu, where all of a sudden you’re back to squareone feeling like a newbie student pilot learning to hoverall over again. Oh yes, this is what vertical reference is allabout, and the challenge makes it all the more addictive, just like the early days when you’d fly over and over untilyou could finally master those controls. The only thingstopping you this time is discomfort – fly in that positionfor 10 minutes and you’re soon thinking, “I can’t take anymore of this!”How long liners manage it for 10 hours a day, every dayreally is incredible. Long lining is a seriously demanding job, but these guys are out there flying for hours on endin the avoid curve, with a heavy load hanging hundredsof feet below in an OGE hover. Thorough training isparamount, not only for the safety of the pilot and crew,but for the precision needed to get the cargo to it’sdestination without damaging it, or punching it off it toofar from the target. Some of these makeshift heliportsare only just big enough for the helicopter, and often thelanding site is made of a couple of logs amongst tall treesand obstacles. You think you know what a confined areas