Rotors ’n Ribs fly-in combines fun with vital safety messages from industry experts.
In early July of this year, I had the opportunity to take part in the annual Rotors ’n Ribs helicopter fly-in in Goshen, Indiana. Last year was my first time attending the show, and I was so impressed with the crowd and the overwhelming generosity of the locals that I recommended to HAI leadership that we continue to support and sponsor this fantastic gathering of rotorcraft lovers in the upper midwestern United States.
Nearly 40 helicopters across various brands and models flew in for the event. There was an assortment of Airbus, Bell, Leonardo, and even homebuilt rotorcraft products on display. They came from as nearby as Fort Wayne, Indiana, but also originated in the farther-away Chicago, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan, areas.
Several industry experts spoke at the show about safety issues important to all of us in helicopter aviation, including Chris Holder, eastern US sales manager at Concorde Batteries. Chris spoke to the crowd about how to prepare a new aircraft battery and then maintain it for maximum durability and longevity.
Afterward, I took the stage to talk about an alarming trend I see from my seat at HAI: poor fuel management (photo above). I’ve been watching this issue for a few years, and occasionally I’ll request data from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the topic. Current NTSB statistics show that US operators have crashed more than seven general aviation aircraft each month over the past five years due to poor fuel management: namely, fuel exhaustion, fuel starvation, or fuel contamination.
To clarify, fuel exhaustion means the aircraft is depleted of fuel, whereas fuel starvation means the aircraft has run out of fuel on the selected tank. In the latter situation, there’s still fuel in the aircraft, but the fuel selector switch hasn’t been placed on a tank with fuel available. Fuel contamination, of course, means simply that the fuel isn’t pure or capable of combustion. (See my September 2022 Work Safe column, “Fuel for Thought,” for more on fuel contamination.)
We in the general aviation industry have to do better.
I’ve had an engine fail while flying because a fuel-line “B” nut backed off in flight. Had the flight ended in a crash, I’m sure it would have been cited as a fuel-related accident. During preflight, put your hands on the fuel lines to check for anything that might be loose. If your aircraft uses avgas, look for blue staining from the dye indicating a fuel leak.
Mechanics and pilots, please keep an eye on your fuel and fuel-delivery system. We take fuel for granted. We should not. Do your due diligence. Sump your aircraft tanks, and ensure that your airport FBO folks are sumping their airport tanks, as well.
Back to Rotors ’n Ribs. Our final educational session at the event was reserved for Bruce Webb, director of aviation education and community outreach for Airbus. Bruce doesn’t need much of an introduction for most readers of ROTOR. He is an absolutely fabulous speaker. His ability to make us think is worth the price of admission to any event at which he’s appearing.
Bruce spoke about “flying blind,” demonstrating how every pilot has a central blind spot that literally prevents them from seeing other aircraft or objects in plain view. Bruce showed how being distracted can cause a pilot to miss what’s clearly right in front of them. Good scanning and a willingness to observe what isn’t normal will get you in the right mindset to see what you don’t expect.
A Grand Finale
The 2023 Rotors ’n Ribs grand finale was a drone light show (photo opposite, bottom). I hadn’t seen such a display before, and I was totally amazed at the precision and organization required to create such artwork in the sky. The light show lasted about 12 minutes and had the crowd of about 4,000 people looking up in awe!
If you want to take part in a very entertaining and educational event, circle Jul. 13, 2024, on your calendar to attend the next Rotors ’n Ribs show. That event will include America’s Freedom Fest, which celebrates American and aviation, and is estimated to draw more than 20,000 spectators as well as numerous aircraft for both static display and the air show.