Monday, July 26, 2010

Comet Aviation Inc.

One of the more interesting things we did back in that time period, happened to one of our pipeline companies which is similar to what is happening in the gulf now, but on a much smaller scale.  It seems that one day the folks that controlled the shipment of petroleum products in the pipelines got their orders for the day mixed up, and sent jet fuel and diesel oil in the same pipeline, but in opposing directions.  The pressure was so great, that the pipeline erupted and forty thousand gallons of number two diesel oil dumped into a small seven acre fishing lake in Kansas which was near the pipeline. 

This amounted to several inches of diesel oil floating at the surface of the lake.  Too bad Jerry Getz isn't around today, I'm sure he would come up with an idea.  He suggested to the cleanup crews that they could dig trenches on the four corners of the lake, and we could use our helicopters to sweep the lake with the rotor downwash and move the oil to the windward side and spill the oil into  the trenches.  They then pumped out the trenches and separated the oil from the water.  We did this for several days using a couple of helicopters. It's really amazing how well this worked, considering this was back in the late 60's.  Of course the owner of the fishing lake lost all of his fish stock, but at least the lake was usable a couple years later.   You will notice in the picture how the rotor downwash is pushing the oil on the surface outward from under the helicopter.  When hovering the helicopter sidewards, this would push the oil to the corners of the lake.  One of the last days of this operation, I had been flying all day at this lake.  The rotorwash did cause the air mixed with the oily water to reenter the rotor system and caused the helicopter to be covered with oil.  This made it very difficult to see out of the front of the helicopter, so I had to rely on my visibility out of the sides of the helicopter.  I was going to make one more pass over the lake and then return to the airport.
Because it was hard to see out of the helicopter, when I made my approach to the lake, I decided that when I could see waves made by the rotor downwash, I would decrease my decent and establish a hover.  This almost became a disaster.  Actually the waves would not appear until after the helicopter is in a hover.  On the decent, I misjudged and actually sank the helicopter in the lake almost up to the floor of the helicopter.  When I realized what I had done, I instantly raised the helicopter out of the water and luck was on my side that day.  The good old Lycoming engine kept on running.  When I returned to the airport, the mechanics made a thorough inspection of the helicopter and nothing was found wrong.

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