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Another crash - Helicopter I-EDIC vs Jodel F-PMGV in Italy

@Mooney_Driver

I agree with you on a general level. Of course filing a flight plan is not a big effort, and there are the obvious SAR benefits associated with it, which are important especially in a challenging environment such as mountains.

What is frequently a problem however, due to the specific nature of such flights:

  • It’s not always possible to reach ATC to open, close, or change flight plans. This is a stress factor: What if you opened the flight plan in France, fly to your destination airfield up in the Italian mountains, land, but then are not able to close the flight plan (radio, cell phone)? You’d be worried about SAR operations to be triggered.
  • Depending on weather and local conditions, such flights are conducted in a quite flexible fashion. For instance, you’d fly down to Tignes and/or Tovière. You discover that light, wind, or snow prohibit a landing. So you change plans and would like to cross over to Ruitor. You might not be able to contact ATC to change your flight plan.

I hope those examples don’t just appear as laziness from the pilots’ side, it rather real practice issues pilots are facing. I’m sure the willingness is there given practicality (and probably now it’s there anyways due to the threat of prosecution).

About the incident / accident rate (you missed a few incidents and accidents, for instance the famous Mousqetaire handstand video at Saint Roch Mayères): I don’t want to statistically judge it, but I think it’s important to consider that this is a school which solely teaches one of the most challenging ways of flying day in, day out, morning to evening, whole year round, to novice students.

I know from own experience how unforgiving those airstrips are (no go-around, 200-300 m, sloped, topology, winds, non-standard approach). You have to maintain your glide path very accurately, approach speed within 2-3 km/h (Jodel Mousqetaire typically 120 km/h), spot land -0+30m perhaps, no mistakes allowed.

As mentioned elsewhere, every flight entails about 10 landings on 2-3 different altisurfaces and altiports. They probably do 10-15 instruction flights per day on average, so 100-150 landings in challenging conditions per day by students. (I remember one instructor told me he does 700-1000 hours per year of that). Maybe that allows to relate the incident rate to the magnitude of flight activity. “Wo gehobelt wird, fallen Späne.”

Not intending to trivialize or defend this or any other school, just trying to give some background information on that kind of instruction and flying to put things in perspective.

Last Edited by Zorg at 28 Jan 11:39
LFHN, LSGP, LFHM

Gents, just a kind reminder that you would do well not to opine about things you are not familiar with. Without wishing to single out anyone, posts such as this one are not helpful.

Alpine mountain flying has as much to do with regular GA as flying rotary in the North Sea or playing tennis. It is very much a niche activity which has its own rules, culture and history, all intimately and inextricably tied to a handful of clubs in the area.

There are only about 15−25 people who fly fixed-wing regularly in the Alps (plus another 1−3 in the Pyrenees?) It is up to them and the mountain helicopter and paragliding community to discuss and derive lessons from this or any incident. The rest of us have nothing useful to contribute there—not even those of us who are mountain rated.

Thank you for reading.

Zorg wrote:

It’s not always possible to reach ATC to open, close, or change flight plans. This is a stress factor: What if you opened the flight plan in France, fly to your destination airfield up in the Italian mountains, land, but then are not able to close the flight plan (radio, cell phone)? You’d be worried about SAR operations to be triggered.

Are there any airfields anywhere which don’t have cell coverage? And I would think that while a flightplan allows crossing the borders legally, I am not sure about landing on a glacier as there is hardly any customs there? I think you still need to use AOE’s in Italy?

Zorg wrote:

So you change plans and would like to cross over to Ruitor. You might not be able to contact ATC to change your flight plan.

That is a point I suppose. However in the light of what just happened, do you think it is a good idea to “hide” and not operate the common frequency to allow others to know you are there?

I know it is not “practical” the way it is with the border issues between nations which actually should not have borders at all according to the EU vision, but still insist on border procedures for GA. But is it worth breaking the law just because it is too difficult not to? As I said, last time I looked, “Everyone is doing it” is not an argument which will stand in court.

LSZH, Switzerland

Hello 1521

Alpine mountain flying has as much to do with regular GA as flying rotary in the North Sea or playing tennis. It is very much a niche activity which has its own rules, culture and history, all intimately and inextricably tied to a handful of clubs in the area.

That may be the case and I doubt that there will be anyone here who doubts the skills of those involved.

But having its own rules? Maybe in some regards but I think your and the other concerned competent authorities would argue against you making up when you need a flight plan or not and if you have to observe border crossing procedures. Sorry to say but in the face of this accident, I would not be surprised if the Italians will take action while they appear to have tolerated violations of their border?

My reaction came primarily due to some of the statements made here saying that flight plans are regularly not filed and those who don’t would hide their presence by not communicating on the common frequency to avoid detection?

Clearly there are things which are valid for everyone, even those who think they are above the law (literally).

LSZH, Switzerland

There are only about 15−25 people who fly fixed-wing regularly in the Alps (plus another 1−3 in the Pyrenees?) It is up to them and the mountain helicopter and paragliding community to discuss and derive lessons from this or any incident. The rest of us have nothing useful to contribute there—not even those of us who are mountain rated.

This sounds remarkably similar to the way the UK ex-military display flying community also used to talk about itself. Don’t worry, we know what we are doing, you can’t possibly understand…

EGTK Oxford

With the specific exceptions linked earlier, you do need a flight plan to cross a border, even momentarily.

You may well have to use a GPS. For example it is easy, flying out of EGKA, to enter French airspace if flying way out over the sea getting photos of some weird cloud formations.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Hello

Following my email I totally agree with MOONEY DRIVER & 1521

Mountain flying is very special and indeed few pilots can land on snow (and even on wheels) without an instructor on board (at least in a mountain club).

the administrative rules are not of great help in the mountains … it’s “pure” and technical flight!

in the ALPS there are a lot of mountain clubs : Megeve, Meribel, Courchevel l’Alpes d’Huez and Valloire and in the valley, Grenoble Annemasse Annecy and Chambéry.

As it is said evolutions and in particular the final requires great precision (the slope-speed in km / h to the nearest km) otherwise, in spite of your point of aim, you will go beyond the point of landing and the stopping point. I saw some “MOUSSE” snowy complement passing beyond the slope in Tignes (La grande motte) and in this sector, the landing at Tignes-LE PALET is quite difficult.
And do not rely on the release of the Flaps on a Jodel D119 that does not have!

On the other hand, for my part, one of the flights on the RUITOR was made after landing on Tignes and was not necessarily planned after the instructor.This to explain that the mountain is a zone of freedom that does not necessarily accomodate of an FPL which in any case would not prevent the pilots from seeing themselves in evolutions according to the factors of the day !

in the ALPS there are only a few clubs: Megeve, Meribel, Courchevel and Valloire, L’Alpe d’Huez, but also plain clubs like Grenoble and Annemasse Chambery or Annecy.
Of course I recommend MEGEVE!

I flew 15 years in winter training (sometimes in summer to MEGEVE), I put my BONANZA every summer and I remember 3 fatal accidents since then: my favorite instructor, another young instructor and an experienced female pilot (precipitate return with crash and fire because of a poorly closed canopies) … and of course some minor breaks.

Modesty must be the rule in this flight context.

Adls
LFPU, France

Mooney_Driver wrote:

How an instructor should sit in the rear is however beyond me.

Do we know that he was instructing?

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Yes; exactly. If an FI, a 10000hr ATPL, or the Queen, cannot fly as a passenger then we may as well all give up. Or fly single seaters.

Whether it is good judgement for an FI to be such a passenger, on a flight in a tricky area, is just like the AF447 argument about the captain sleeping in his bunk while they were crossing known bad wx.

OTOH, the FI might have just been somebody who holds an FI rating and has nothing to do with mountains. The vast majority of FIs have never been “anywhere” so to speak.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

If an FI, a 10000hr ATPL, or the Queen, cannot fly as a passenger then we may as well all give up.

If he was a passenger, then he in theory had no function on the flight. If he was there as an FI, he was pilot in command and therefore responsible for the flight and should be in a position to interact with the pilot flying / student at any time. Very much apart from the legal aspect, I don’t know a single FI who would out of his own free will sit in the back of a plane he is licensed for, as in case of cases he would always be held responsible in some way or the other as this case shows. I would assume however by the way that the Italians reacted that he was PIC. If I am not mistaken it was stated at some point or the other here that he is an FI with the club who owns the plane so I think it’s a foregone conclusion.

Peter wrote:

the AF447 argument about the captain sleeping in his bunk while they were crossing known bad wx.

On airline flights, this is normal practice and the crew is composed out of people who have the necessary qualifications. And as it was shown, the Capt did not comprehend the situation any more than his two FO’s did, which left a very bad impression at the overall flying skills of that crew. The consequence that Airbus had to do some serious rethinking about the way they teach people to fly their airplanes sais enough.

LSZH, Switzerland
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