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Goodyear: Columnist

In a perfect world regulations would be practical and effective and all of us plying the trade would be implementing and monitoring. At some point this process has appeared to come off the rails. Our regulations are difficult to understand and are sometimes being applied rather heavy-handedly with no regard for field conditions or subjective interpretation, and many of us do the annual training but pay little attention to day-to-day application.


July 9, 2007
By Geoff Goodyear

Topics

Dangerous Goods issues have been playing out within our industry lately
and we might do well to keep our ear to the ground and keep track of
what is going on. If we leave all the bureaucratic stuff behind we are
left with a couple of essential questions: What are we allowed to carry
in the helicopter and at what point does our cargo become a hazard? The
issue is integral to flight safety.

In
a perfect world regulations would be practical and effective and all of
us plying the trade would be implementing and monitoring. At some point
this process has appeared to come off the rails. Our regulations are
difficult to understand and are sometimes being applied rather
heavy-handedly with no regard for field conditions or subjective
interpretation, and many of us do the annual training but pay little
attention to day-to-day application. There has to be an effective
middle ground.

When trying to develop a theme for articles like
this, memories of a misspent youth and early career come flooding back.
I spent one summer working with a bunch of hydrographers stationed on a
ship. Our sturdy vessel was without the adornment of a heli-deck, so at
the end of the working day I would park the aircraft on the shore
(above the high-tide mark), and the crew would fetch me via an
inflatable Zodiac.

I had repeated this process every day for
about six weeks. After a month and a half on a cramped vessel, you
either make close friends or vicious enemies. Mercifully I came to
count the ship’s crew as close friends and when the time came for my
permanent repatriation to land, it was with some regret and much
flourish and fanfare that the crew saw me off.

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I had all my
belongings and dirty laundry in green garbage bags and as I started to
transfer my personal cargo to the stern of the ship I was waved off by
‘Zody’ where all my luggage had already been stowed.

I still
have vivid memories of seeing the entire ship’s company, now my close
friends, standing on the stern of the ship, giving the ‘Queen’s Wave’
to their pilot as the Zody pulled away from the hull and made for
shore. I was misty-eyed. Several of the crew insisted on accompanying
me to shore and further insisted on moving all my belongings to the
aircraft and stowed them nice and neat. What enthusiastic workers! What
great friends! I had the warm and fuzzies all over.

I then
proceeded on the long ferry flight from the coast of Labrador to the
island of Newfoundland. I landed in front of my house (we lived on a
beach) and proceeded to drag my luggage up to the house to be put away.
There seemed to be an awful lot of garbage bags. After several trips I
finally got all the bags lined up in the kitchen. My wife proceeded to
open the bags to search for dirty clothes.

Garbage! Ship’s
garbage! I had just carried seven bags of ship’s garbage 500 miles by
helicopter and then personally placed each individual bag on my kitchen
floor! No wonder the scurvy crew were so helpful.

A Shipper’s
Declaration would have been a great help. Had I been able to personally
participate in loading the cargo, I may have had an inkling of what was
happening. But no. I chose to leave all the work to others and suffered
in the end. The stigma, indeed the smell, still haunts me to this day.

Don’t
let this happen to you. Always be suspicious of the cargo you are
carrying. Always cast a stern gaze on those who seem overly helpful or
wave limp-wristed from the back end of ships.

In the meantime,
for the industry to take this topic seriously, our DG regulator has be
more practical in developing and applying regulations, and we as
operators and crews need to pay more attention. One of the key areas of
deficiency on our part is that we tend not to understand or remember
the processes we have committed to in our Ops Manuals. Take heed from
the hapless pilot described above lest a malodorous air shall follow
you about for a long time.


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