Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is that a cyclic stick in your hand or are you just pleased to see me?

To fly a helicopter, it is necessary to manipulate the collective control stick (or handbrake), cyclic control stick (gearstick) and tail rotor pedals (clutch and accelerator). In order to hover motionless, it is necessary to keep all three sets of controls moving in an incoherent fashion. Once you get your head round that, the rest is easy...
This is the Humberside Chopper, the West Yorkshire one not being at Carr Gate for some reason. From this angle, it looks rather sinister, the instrument tubes looking somewhat like weaponry. The slogan "Protect, Help, Reassure" seems to conflict with the militaristic feel.

A longer range shot shows the helicopter to look a lot less threatening. Notice that there is not a tail rotor, this is known as a NOTAR design.

The compound was temporarily closed to visitors due to incoming Aircraft. This turned out to be the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, which is stationed at Carr Gate. (The Charity is in the process of obtaining a second Helicopter to be stationed in South Yorkshire).
Up close the air ambulance is festooned with sponsor organisation logos, including a Square and Compasses of the Yorkshire Freemasons below the exhaust. It seems that the small boy on the step was in need of some genuine first aid as he was being bandaged as we walked past. The Charity needs all the money it can get- according to the Website it costs them £6,900 every day to keep the Helicopters flying and it is funded by mostly voluntary contributions, not the NHS.
The Police Helicopter took off and landed very neatly onto this trailer platform, presumably to be able to stow it in the nearby Hangar. My eye was caught by the searchlight assembly which is used to track suspects at night, it being remote controlled for pan and tilt.
A look at the rating plate showed it to be rated at 1600 Watts- being a discharge lamp this is about the equivalent of about 6,000 Watts of regular lighting, tightly focussed into a near-parallel beam.

The Force Helicopter is looked after by the Air Operations Unit and it is manned by 24 hour shift based a crew of three, the Pilot and two Police observers, one of whom sits in the front to communicate to the Pilot and the other in the back to work the cameras & equipment. They can record normal and infra-red (thermal) cameras with recording both on the aircraft and by a downlink to the ground when required.

Other unexpected items of equipment are a vehicle tracker monitor, a full length stretcher, a siren and PA speakers. It is used for searches, suspect pursuit and crowd control. It can fly for 90 minutes at a time and is only ten minutes away from everywhere in West Yorkshire. The Police seem a little coy about the specifications but it seems that it can fly at up to 175 MPH. The Police have taken the trouble to create a pair of quicktime views, here and here.

We hear the helicopters fairly regularly and even occasionally see them at night with searchlights on. Apparently the NOTAR design makes them much quieter than regular non-fixed wing aircraft, but it doesn't feel it at 2am! It was reassuring, however, to actually see them, know what they are used for and talk to the people that make it happen. These mechanical bumble-bees cost more than 3 Million Pounds to buy but the Police presumably make a good case to Local and National Government as to why their Forces need them. This Pilot's Forum makes interesting reading, ever wondered how Rotorheads land on a lighthouse?

No comments: