Safety & Training
Surrounding Explosions: One Pilot’s Experience
July 18, 2007 By Ken Armstrong
Bogdan Dudewitz was well recognized as a competent contract chopper pilot but everyone knew he existed in his own nether world.
Bogdan Dudewitz was well recognized as a competent contract chopper
pilot but everyone knew he existed in his own nether world. Known as
‘Bogie’ or ‘The Dude’ by his acquaintances, he possessed none of the
characteristics the titles suggested and he never considered the
secondary meanings associated with the nicknames.
fact, the last time I saw Bogie he had no eyebrows and the blond swath
of hairline normally dangling beneath his slightly askew helicopter hat
was missing. There is always a story following a question posed to The
Dude and this was no exception. He hated waste – just couldn’t accept
all of the jet fuel that was left in drums as pilots refueling choppers
typically set their hand pumps up slightly off the bottom to avoid
siphoning water into their helicopters. On occasion Bogie would overfly
a refueling site in the bush where thoughtless operators left such
drums and would swoop in and wrap the errant drums in the net he
carried in the baggage compartment and whisk them off to his base.
There, he would meticulously drain off the JP-4 into handy containers
and return the drums to the bulk dealer for the $15 refund.
Bogie found lots of uses for the jet fuel, which he knew was mostly
naphtha. He shunned the expense of barbecue starter fluid and used a
liberal application of his Jet B accumulation instead. On one hot
summer day, the pooled fuel had sat in the barbecue for a few minutes
while Bogie answered the phone. When he returned, he casually tossed a
lit match at the assembled sodden briquettes – only to create an
explosive conflagration that brought his wife running. She was greeted
by the featureless face of a staggering madman reaching out for a
nearby tree to maintain his balance. Months passed before the hair grew
When his midsummer break expired, he departed Calgary and
headed south for the Livingston Mountain Range and some of the
strongest winds and most challenging flying in the hemisphere. He and
the trusty Hughes 500 (as they used to be called) were to participate
in a long-line seismic operation. The little, buzzing speedster was
equipped with a big bulging bubble door on the left side so Bogie could
‘hang out’ for vertical reference work. Multi-hook vertical reference
work in the mountains was new and dangerous but The Dude’s lack of
knowledge of these new challenges didn’t seem to faze him at all.
Ignorance is so blissful.
Well, it was peaceful until the Hughes
leveled off at cruising speed and the suction on the airfoilshaped
bubble door worked its magic. The horrendous din of the bubble door
exploding open awoke him from his reverie into a state of seatpuckering
agitation (described by aviation experts as ‘elevated awareness’).
mentally assumed another catastrophic main shaft exploding and flinging
shrapnel in all directions. But the trusty Allison continued whistling
and the ‘flying egg’ continued on course seemingly oblivious to the
devastation. After a quick check of the instruments, Bogie’s attention
was diverted to a cold draft and finally to the door, which was still
attached to the hinges, but now flying at a 45-degree angle to
helicopter. Amazing how one can miss the obvious – for a while. After
landing and securing the door he was only somewhat attentive when it
popped 10 minutes later. Eventually, he learned how to permanently
secure the door…