An interesting letter ref MTM – #002 – Richard Grills

Posted on February 12, 2010

AN INTERESTING LETTER REF MOGGY’S TUNA MANUAL – #002
from Tuna Professional Richard Grills

January 29,2010


Photo: Richard Grills (another boring day at the office)

Hello Francis.

I have read your articles and have found your research informative and questionable.

I come from Australia and due to a certain helicopter company with an apparent nine total losses, No Australian underwriter will touch helicopters on purse seiners.

Lloyds are also keeping away from this type of operation due to getting their fingers burnt. What is the sustainability in this industry? Tropic helicopters has placed a memo some time ago enforcing a no flight below deck height/fish herding policy. I would personally fly at deck height and above where practical although would see pilots down clowning around like hovercraft. Remember that the machines are insured for spotting and not herding. Unfortunately, due to the dishonesty of some helicopter operators, we are now faced with an industry that is basically uninsurable. Please tell your insurance company that you engage in ‘fish herding’ and see what their response is! It may work, however:

1)*** Is it worth the wear and tear on the machine and the high tail rotor strike and loss of life?

2)***  Can you get a pilot rating for fish herding?

3)***  If not how can you assess or train pilots properly?

I would also like to ask you this:

4)***  Is this industry better now than when you started?

I do not see safer working conditions or updated machines. Lets not talk with gloves on our hands. If operators are not making enough money, charge more. If they can not charge more than sell ice creams because the industry is no longer viable.

Regards,

Richard Grills.

Reply from Moggy:

Great letter, dude. Thanks. Very honest.

1)  Quote: "Is it worth the wear and tear on the machine and the high tail rotor strike and loss of life?"

It’s a good, good question. It reminds me of the old days, when we taught
spin training in Cessna 150’s. I liked doing it. I discovered that once in a while, (depending -presumably- on C of G loading), the aircraft would do ONE MORE complete spin. Despite all the correct inputs for correction. That is when your usual calm instructor’s patter momentarily dries up. You examine everything you are doing. Your facial expression doesn’t change, but inside you’re thinking things through in technical terms. Like: "WHAT THE F@#^**CK!???"
Then… all of a sudden, she neatly recovers.
Well, after years and years of doing this, training students in full spin recovery in a variety of aircraft, including a Christen Eagle, (earth and sky  blur together) I was shocked when the British Civil Aviation Authority removed (fully developed) spin training from the teaching syllabus. Period. No more ‘real’ spin training.  
I called them up, and I was pretty damn annoyed. I wanted to know why they were taking chances with people’s lives. Well, firstly I talked with some arrogant imbecile in Flight Crew Licensing, who turned out to be a former Air Force navigator. Promoted well above his level of competence. He had recently got his private fixed wing license. He had less than three hundred hours fixed wing time, and was haughtily trying to lecture me. That did not go down too well. Then, however, I got passed to a fellow who actually knew what he was talking about.


Photo:  Richard Gillis

He explained it this way:
"Francis, we know you know what you’re doing. But many instructors don’t. We have calculated that the amount of people getting killed, with an instructor on board the aircraft, during spin training, well EXCEEDS the amount of lives that would likely be saved by the promulgation of that spin recovery knowledge…. Therefore…"
I remember putting the phone down, sadly. I knew some of those people who had been killed. Dammit, he was right… I couldn’t argue with the logic. The American FAA followed suit, and my understanding is for the exact same reasoning.
Okay, do you see the parallel with tuna helicopters, and the widespread practice of ‘herding’??  You CAN herd fish, successfully, without killing yourself, or wrecking your beautiful helicopter. But a "little knowledge" is a very dangerous thing.


The art of "Herding"; photo by Philip Bell

You spin a Cessna 150 successfully, and you think you’re an ace, right? Now you go and try it in a Christen Eagle, and you end up inverted, in a flat spin, totally confused as to which way you’re spinning, with not a clue what to do next.
Just like being very good with an R-22. You’ve trained students on it, and you’re a Robinson ace. So what’s the difference with jumping in a Bell 47, or a Hughes 500,or a Robinson R-44, or a bell Jetranger, on a windy day in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? The difference is galactic. Read the chapters I have written about "herding" very carefully, and you’ll see I hit heavily on the dangers.  
So to answer your question, "Is it worth the wear and tear on the machine and the high tail rotor strike and loss of life?"…
I would answer: Realistically, are you ever going to stop pilots going out and experimenting on their own with spinning Cessna 150’s? And Christen Eagles? Despite all the well meaning regulations you may care to bring in?
*** Are you ever going to stop pilots going out and experimenting with herding Tuna?
*** Are you ever going to stop ship’s captains wanting to try every conceivable weapon in their arsenal in the million dollar hunt for the sea’s great gifts?
No…
Not unless you had a truly massive crackdown. And you would need the ship’s captains to voluntarily give up a weapon that some (by no means, all) captains prize very highly. Mine certainly did.  If you read my chapters, you will see where I describe the occasional huge hundred thousand dollar success stories. But is it dangerous? Heck,yeah…

2)***  Can you get a pilot rating for fish herding?

That’s a rhetorical question, and we all know the answer. Nobody -to my knowledge- even has a formal curriculum for new tuna pilots. The closest thing there is to a knowledge database, designed to save pilots’ lives, is probably "Moggy’s Tuna Manual".
I wager 99 per cent of newbie tuna pilots get thrown in the deep end.
Often enough with tragic consequences.

3)***  If not how can you assess or train pilots properly?

I think it is almost imperative that a new pilot go out with a seasoned veteran for at least one fishing trip. This should be documented, and the ‘sign off’ forwarded to the insurance underwriters. It would be a small step, but a significant one. Mind, these days many companies are their own underwriters. Meaning: there is no insurance.
I have a lot more stories I guess I need to go and write, including one truly amazing yarn about the real life experience of having one particular ‘newbie’ come out with me. He spectacularly failed to make the grade, and probably has not forgiven me to this day. Amazing story… he would have DIED, if he had been on his own. I lost track how many times I had to come on the controls. If I ever get around to writing up that story, I might call it: "Saved his life (again). No thanks (again)"

4)***  Is this industry better now than when you started?

(sigh) I kind of wish you wouldn’t ask me that.

I’ll only get myself into big trouble if I answer it honestly.

Maybe later.

Fly Safe

Moggy

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on February 21, 2010, 9:04 pm


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