January - February 2005
Dividing The Load:
Dividing The Load:
How LAPD Handles Aircraft Maintenance
By Mark Williams
LAPD Maintenance Section
To deal with the high volume of aircraft that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division must maintain—averaging approximately 18,000 flight hours per year—LAPD shares the responsibility for maintenance of their fleet with the Department of General Services. General Services is responsible for actually performing the maintenance, and LAPD is responsible for coordinating the needed maintenance.
The Helicopter Maintenance Section of General Services is headquartered at the Van Nuys Airport in the City of Los Angeles. The section has a satellite maintenance shop at Hooper Heliport, which is on the rooftop of the C. Erwin Piper Technical Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Van Nuys hangar serves as the primary repair facility for the City’s fleet of 26 helicopters. In addition to major repairs and modifications, scheduled and unscheduled inspections are routinely completed at the Van Nuys facility.
Hooper Heliport is the world’s largest rooftop heliport. General Service’s mechanics routinely provide normal services and repairs for the LAPD helicopter fleet at this location. To obtain service, pilots complete trouble reports known as "squawks." Pilots detail repair issues on the squawks and maintenance personnel address the service and repairs.
The Helicopter Maintenance Section not only provides service for the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, but also to the California Department of Water & Power. There are 17 helicopters assigned to the LAPD, five assigned to the LAFD, and four assigned to the DWP.
A valuable asset to the Helicopter Maintenance Section is the Quality Assurance Unit. It operates in a lateral capacity to the Maintenance Section. Quality Assurance augments the maintenance staff, helping to insure repairs are completed to the highest standards of excellence to include research of FAA Airworthiness Directives and applicable bulletins.
Ninety percent of the service to LAPD, LAFD, and DWP is scheduled. Helicopters assigned to LAPD are seen for 100-hour inspections approximately once every two to three weeks. LAFD helicopters are due for the 100-hour inspections approximately once every three months. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, DWP flights have increased 400 percent. Their helicopters are now inspected an average of once every one and a half weeks.
All of the helicopter mechanics possess an FAA-issued Airframe and Power Plant license. Although not required as a condition of employment by the City, most also have an FAA-issued Inspection Authorization License that permits them to complete annual inspections, Part 337 major repairs and alterations.
At the Van Nuys facility, the mechanics handle mechanical repairs, component overhaul, paint, sheet metal work, fabrication for mission equipment and repair and upkeep of the Fire Department’s aerial water tanks and hoists. The City employs seven supervisors and 27 mechanics that operate on day watch and night watch. Two mechanics are staffed on Saturdays, and additional mechanics can be called in if needed during the weekend.
The FAA is mandated to inspect the facility at least twice annually, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) also inspects the facility once a year.
Two LAPD pilots are also assigned to the maintenance section--the LAPD Maintenance Sergeant and the Maintenance Coordinator. The Maintenance Sergeant is required to supervise the Coordinator (whose duties are detailed below) and to serve as the liaison with Air Support's officer in command.
The Maintenance Coordinator is responsible for the daily activities associated with the maintenance of department aircraft, which include:
Coordinating and scheduling required maintenance with Department of General Services. In order to maintain an even and consistent flow of aircraft in maintenance, it is the Maintenance Coordinator’s responsibility to schedule the order in which aircraft are flown.
Ensuring compliance with any Airworthiness Directives affecting department aircraft, engines and components.
Conducting post maintenance Functional Check Flights.
Participating in Flight Testing with the FAA and manufacturers in acquiring any Supplemental Type Certifications for department aircraft.
Working with manufacturers and aftermarket vendors in the research and development of products useful to the City’s airborne law enforcement missions.
Other activities associated with aircraft maintenance, certification and airworthiness of department aircraft.
During this past year, LAPD maintenance pilots have been involved in the following equipment testing:
FAA flight test of 200-amp starter-generator for the AS 350.
FAA flight test and certification of the Tyler Sniper Platform.
Design and testing of a new digital 200-ammeter gauge for the AS350.\
Product testing for Spectrolab’s Nightsun II.
Several ongoing video downlink projects enabling digital and analog downlink to wireless handheld devices.
We’ve Come A Long Way
The LAPD didn’t always operate such an extensive helicopter fleet, though. The department purchased its first helicopter, a Hiller 12-C, in 1957 at a cost of $38,770. It was purchased to patrol the Los Angeles freeway system. As the effectiveness of the police helicopter soon became apparent, a second helicopter was purchased in 1963, and a third was purchased in 1965.
Between 1968 and 1971, three Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopters and five Bell 47G-5 helicopters were added to the fleet, bringing the total to 11 helicopters. What is now known as the LAPD Air Support Division at the time had 31 permanent employees.
Funding was obtained in 1973 to purchase seven new Bell 206B-III Jet Ranger helicopters and to upgrade three of the original Jet Rangers to Jet Ranger IIs. In 1974, the Helicopter Section was upgraded to an Air Support Division, which was manned by 78 full-time employees. The aircraft fleet then consisted of ten turbine-powered helicopters, five piston helicopters and one single engine Cessna airplane.
By 1981, two of the Bell Jet Rangers had accumulated over 14,000 hours and went into maintenance for major overhauls. In addition, the Air Support Division had by then taken possession of its first two Bell Jet Ranger III helicopters.
In 1989, five new American Eurocopter AS350 B-1s were purchased to replace the five remaining Bell 47G helicopters. But due to budgetary constraints, the replacement program was temporarily put on hold. In 1996, Air Support Division acquired three Bell OH-58Cs, one Bell UH-1H Huey and one Beechcraft C-12 airplane from a military surplus program.
In 1997, Air Support Division replaced part of the aging fleet with three new Bell 407s. At that point, LAPD was flying six different helicopter models. Due to flight and maintenance standardization concerns, a decision was made to consolidate the number of helicopter models being operated.
In 2000, the remaining AS350 B-1s, Bell 407s and two of the OH-58 helicopters were replaced with ten new American Eurocopter B-2s.
Today, the fleet consists of ten AS350 B-2s, five Bell 206B-III’s, one Bell UH-1H, one Bell OH-58C, and one eechcraft Kingair A200 airplane.
Communications Make It Work
All of the pilot’s radios today include two VHF aircraft transceivers, VOR, GPS and a transponder. A TCAD system and a Sandel multi-function display give the pilot additional situational awareness.
Each tactical flight officer has a multi-mode wideband transceiver, covering a frequency range from 29 to 960 MHz, ensuring the aircrew the ability to communicate with nearly every agency that operates in Southern California. Two APCO-25 digital department radios allow the crew to communicate with ground units. An interface for a handheld radio gives the crew another radio for backup and allows the radios from other agencies to be easily incorporated.br>
LAPD’s Avionics Group
The avionics group consists of five seasoned technicians and operates out of two repair stations. The technicians maintain each of the installed systems, install new systems and are responsible for the inspections of all of the aircraft avionics systems. This group has been instrumental in the development of many new products and systems.
The complexity of equipment an aircrew has available is growing every day, often as a result of military developments.
The challenge of any maintenance avionics department is to make the aircraft a more effective tool by integrating this technology and simultaneously simplifying the job of the aircrew.
Don’t Get Distracted
By Jim ymankski
Simple, everyday events can be the cause of severe accidents, if we let them take our attention away from the tasks we are assigned to do.
It was a typically ordinary day, and a typically ordinary job. Things were quiet in the hangar as Frank was nearing the completion of his portion of a 100-hour inspection on a 206B Jet Ranger. The aircraft had a solid history. It had always been treated well, and it came into the inspection with essentially no carried-forward complications. Frank was responsible for all of the engine related work, a task that he had been involved with many times during his 17 years as a mechanic. His fellow mechanics, Paul and Rudy, had already completed all of the airframe items.
There was no particular pressure from operations to return the ship to service; the other aircraft were away on contracts, and no other high priority jobs were waiting. It was a welcome relief to handle an easy job in a usually busy hangar.
Nothing out of the ordinary had been discovered so far during the 100-hour. Just the routine fluid and filter replacements, chip detector checks and inspections.
Frank had just completed the last engine item by inspecting the engine compressor blades and, with Paul's help, was reinstalling the engine intake fairing. The intake fairing on this aircraft is the standard configuration without the particle separator assembly. Instead of a particle separator, the engine is partially protected from ingesting FOD by a screen which extends from left to right around the front of the engine intake, and from the bottom to within several inches of the top of the intake fairing. With his usual thoroughness, Frank was wiping some dirt and a light film of residue from the bottom of the left side of the air intake tunnel.
It was then that Rudy shouted to him from the office. "Frank, your wife is on the phone." Frank immediately stopped what he was doing and walked over to the phone where he learned that his wife was upset, fearing that their 10-year-old son might have a broken arm from a fall out of a tree. She asked if he could come home and help her. Of course, he said he would.
Before leaving, Frank rapidly signed off his work and asked Rudy to help Paul button up the aircraft. Since it was already mid-afternoon, Frank said that he did not expect to be back at work that day, and perhaps not at the normal start time the next.
Rudy, another experienced mechanic, said he'd finish up and make sure the ramp run-up check was completed before returning the aircraft to service. He would take care of everything.
Unfortunately, neither Paul nor Rudy noticed that Frank had left a shop rag in the throat of the intake tunnel that he was cleaning.
When finished, Rudy advised operations to send out a pilot, as the aircraft was ready for a routine run-up and ramp check. The engine start and run-up check on the ramp were completed without any problem, even though the shop rag was still lying in the intake tunnel, just beneath the screen.
The rag remained there until the next morning, when the aircraft was climbing out on its first takeoff since the 100-hour inspection. It was not until then, with the increasing airspeed, that the airflow through the intake was sufficient to draw the rag over the screen and into the engine intake.
The pilot heard a sudden "bang" and felt a left yaw and a decrease in main rotor RPM. Without delay, he lowered the collective, rolled the throttle to flight idle and entered autorotation. Touchdown was fast and hard, bending the skids back, pitching the nose forward so far as to allow the main rotor blades to strike the ground and resulting in the rotor system separating from the main gearbox.
Fortunately, the airframe remained intact and came to a stop upright with the engine still running.
The pilot and each of the three passengers walked away shaken, but unharmed. The post accident investigation determined that the power decrease experienced by the pilot was the temporary response of the engine ingesting, disintegrating, burning and passing the pieces of the shop rag. The investigators concluded that, prior to touchdown, the engine might have been able to produce normal engine power. Unfortunately, the pilot was unable to determine that fact during the brief period of time between the "bang" and the autorotative touchdown.
So, who is to blame for this accident? Frank, for leaving the rag behind? Rudy or Paul, for not noticing the rag when buttoning up after the 100-hour inspection? The pilot, who did not look into the engine intake during his preflight check? Or, was it Frank's wife or his son?
Frank deserves most of the blame, but Rudy, Paul, and the pilot have a share too. Frank’s wife and son, while seemingly innocent, even played a part in the chain of events. Each of them had some contribution. Each of them was either an agent or cause of this accident due to distraction.
Distractions are significant and frequent factors in aviation incidents and accidents. Distractions can be powerful interrupters of routine activities, and they can produce deadly results. Distractions can be generated internally or externally and, if not handled and recognized as an interruption, can affect subsequent thoughts and actions.
Distraction From Priorities
A distraction or interruption can attract and refocus attention away from literally any form of human activity. Regardless of what one may be doing, something else can come along that may be of equal or greater importance. Something that cannot be ignored, or left for later. Something that demands immediate attention.
A distraction can rearrange your priorities. What may be of interest and importance one moment, can be abandoned and trivial the next. For Frank, helping his wife and his son became a higher priority than completing the relatively trivial task of closing and checking the cowlings and fairings that were opened or removed for the 100-hour inspection.
Distracting Your _Short Term Memory
Distractions can affect short-term memory functions. Many routine human actions are accomplished through the use of short-term memory. Among other things, short-term memory is the temporary storing of data that may be used to take action only once. Typically, this is the kind of data that one does not train or formally study to retain permanently for expected repeated future actions.
Short-term memory has a limited capacity. For the average person, short-term memory cannot reliably retain more than about seven unrelated or unrehearsed items. Should you already be relying on short-term memory, an interruption or distraction can easily kick an important item out of short-term memory.
By calling Frank to the phone, Rudy provided the interruption that disturbed Frank's short-term memory concerning the shop rag that was left behind.
External & Internal Distractions
Perhaps the most common form of distraction is an external agent forcing its way into someone’s attention. An extreme example might be the thoughtless, blustery person who brusquely walks directly into your office expecting immediate attention regardless of your current activity, or the person who thinks that if he talks loud enough, he can get his message across while you are carrying on a telephone conversation with someone else.
But it's not necessary to be noisy, aggressive and demanding to be distracting. Body language and posture, displayed when simply approaching someone in the hangar, can serve as a silent interrupter and attention grabber. It's not necessary to be physically close to be intrusive to someone's activity. An expectant telephone caller, who makes no effort to learn the situation of the receiver, can catch and distract the receiver in the middle of some activity.
A distraction, however, need not be external. It can come from within. Thoughts can drift from the work at hand to something entirely different and unrelated. All sorts of things can be haunting to the point of being persistent interruptions. Imagine where your thoughts would go if you were sorry about recently offending a friend. Or, if one of your children was gravely ill. Or, if you were about to depart on a two-week vacation immediately after the end of the workday.
A distraction can be due to a personal physical condition or situation. Are you ill? Do you have an upset stomach? Are you experiencing a hangover? Is sweat dripping off the end of your nose as you work on a hot ramp in the Arizona August midday sun to track and balance the main rotor of a MD500E? Basically, is your situation uncomfortable in any way?
The pilot of this 206B had a big interruption when the engine coughed on climb out. The temporary power decrease symptoms were so strong as to convince him that autorotation was the only alternative. Indeed, it prevented him from verifying that the engine was still capable of producing power.
At times, it is very difficult to control distractions. For one thing, humans are curious animals and respond to almost everything that comes to their attention. The brain involuntarily receives data from its surroundings --- data like the sounds of someone talking in the hallway, the glimpse of a flickering fuel low caution light or the vibrations of a helicopter flying over the hangar. When the data that reaches the brain exceeds a certain threshold, or if specific attention is focused on it, it becomes consciously recognized.
Some data is soft, subtle, and non-intrusive. It is there, but it is easy to avoid allowing it your attention. It's the Muzak in the elevator, the hum of your personal computer or the aroma of the coffee brewing.
But our attitude can make something that is not interruptive into a distraction. Can you, for example, see the different ways you might respond, while in a telephone discussion, when either the custodian or the boss walks silently into your office? In one case, you may continue to focus on the telephone conversation while the custodian empties the wastebasket. In the other, you may interrupt your telephone conversation to attend to the boss. Any old person walking into your office need not be a distraction. You do have the ability to ignore that person.
Other data can be sharp, brazen, and strong enough to barge right into your thoughts. Not only are you abundantly aware of it, but also it is very difficult to ignore. It's the smell of the MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone), the sound of the engine out warning horn or the sight of the ground shadow of another aircraft flying in your direction. These distractions cannot be ignored.
Beating Distractions _Through Self Analysis
What is your style? Are you too easily distracted? Are you an interrupter? Are you aware of the attention you demand of others? Do you make any effort to determine if you are disrupting something that may be more urgent than what you are working on? Are you assertive enough to recognize that at times your work should take priority, and that without interrupting, some work would never get done? Are you careful to recognize that after a distraction is gone, it is very easy to miss something when returning to your original task?
Knowing what sort of person you are when it comes to both external and internal distractions can help you avoid succumbing to them. Had Frank considered how he prioritizes his life, he may have been sure to take care of a few final details before handing the routine 100-hour off to Rudy and Paul.
Moreover, a proper analysis of yourself can help you reduce the distractions that you may present to others. Had Frank’s wife considered how her dismay over her son’s injury might affect her husband, she may have asked someone to deliver her message to Frank at the earliest possible convenience, rather than immediately.
An individual's ability to remain focused, ignore non-meaningful distractions and yet sufficiently be aware of a situation to shift focus only when necessary is essential for successful and safe flying and maintenance operations. Pilots and mechanics must always be alert and receptive to new information. But they should shift their focus only if that information is of severe importance.
Discovering and shifting attention to a life threatening situation is not being distracted, it's being alert. A distraction occurs when one allows his or her attention to shift to, or in some cases remain on, something that causes you to miss something else that is more important.
The proper balance requires that an individual in the aviation industry remember four things: ignore nuisance and trivial distractions, avoid being an interrupter, recognize and respond to significant distractions and develop a habit of carefully returning to the point of distraction. Of course, that is easier said than done.
As an adult, our habits and susceptibility to distractions are already formed. Even with an honest self-analysis and recognition of personal habits, it requires training and discipline to develop the ability to avoid distracting or being distracted.
Managing Your Maintenance In Today’s Environment
by David "Bart" Bartkowiak
Maintaining today’s complex law enforcement aircraft requires that the operator and maintainer both understand the intricacies and importance of the mission of the airborne law enforcement unit. A majority of the missions that are covered in this arena happen under the cover of darkness, which inherently adds a greater risk to the crew as well as the aircraft. Also, take into consideration that these aircraft are normally pushed to the edge of their operating limits. Because of this, law enforcement aircraft require constant monitoring not only by the aircrew, but also during the maintenance operations./p>
A majority of operators that contract out their maintenance also keep track of the status of their aircraft's components and inspections. Some go so far as to network constantly with their maintenance facility to keep track of these items, as well as service bulletins and airworthiness directives. The cost of doing business in this way can vary with the required inspection and repair needs. Items not normally looked at by the flight crew can go left unnoticed, and invariably, cost more to repair.
Normally, it is the unit supervisor or a specially assigned officer that is required to schedule with the maintenance contractor. Most maintenance shops can become quite busy at times, which can delay the aircraft being returned to service. Add to this the aircraft which cannot be taken to the shop due to an airworthiness issue, and the downtime can become insurmountable.
Another area that must be managed is the procurement of parts for the aircraft that are being operated. Most maintenance shops require that you purchase your parts through their facility. This allows the shop to certify that approved parts are being installed in the aircraft that they are maintaining.
If, by chance, you purchase your own parts for your maintainer to install, they will require that the proper documentation, and most likely invoices, accompany the parts for their verification. The issue to keep in mind here is that they are given the authority to certify your aircraft for return to service by the Federal Aviation Administration, and must abide by their steadfast rules.
By having a technician on staff to perform the day-to-day routine maintenance, as well as scheduled inspections, operational costs may be greatly reduced, thus justifying the salary of the maintenance technician.
In-house maintenance affords the ability to take care of minor problems with the aircraft before they become a major difficulty that will cost more money in the long run. The staff technician is able to preplan for upcoming scheduled maintenance. In doing so, parts can be ordered ahead of time, helping to assure minimum downtime.
Most technicians employed by the aviation unit work directly with the unit commander in planning operational budgets for the fiscal year. They are also normally given the task of networking with the various vendors, ordering parts and serving as liaison between the FAA and the aviation unit itself.
Technicians might also be responsible for verifying that an ample supply of consumable items are kept in stock, as well as spare components that are known to fail. By keeping these various supplies in stock, the maintenance technician helps to keep downtime to a minimum and aircraft availability to a maximum.
The staff technician helps to ease the workload of the unit personnel by eliminating tasks that would need to be performed if contract maintenance were utilized. By keeping track of the day-to-day operations, the technician is able to assess if closer inspections are required on the various equipment, as well as the aircraft. This helps to assure reliability, as well as safety of the aircraft itself. Determinations can thus be made on when aircraft or equipment have met their useful life limits and need to be replaced or refurbished.
Whether utilizing contract maintenance or having your own technician on staff, the maintenance of various aircraft components and equipment requires outsourcing to various vendors for either overhaul or repair. This is where maintenance management can take a rather ugly turn. Costs can become insurmountable and can either make or break a budget if not managed correctly.
The aviation unit that utilizes contract maintenance can be at the mercy of the vendor that their maintenance facility chooses. Maintenance warranty issues most likely will have to be dealt with by the maintenance contractor. This can create delays in returning the aircraft or equipment to serviceable or airworthy condition. Another factor to take into consideration is cost for these outsourced items. The contractor will most likely incur costs, and therefore, these additional costs are passed on in the form of handling charges.
The staff maintenance technician, on the other hand, is able to shop for the best facility to perform the work that requires outsourcing. More expensive items are bid out, and this helps to reduce the cost of doing business. Bid specifications can be reviewed by the technician to assure that the best quality of work is being asked for. The staff technician can then recommend the best shop to perform the work needed and assure that this work is performed in a timely manner.
When it comes to warranty issues, personnel can assure a more positive outcome for the good of the unit. The in-house technician is better versed in the day to day operation of the equipment and problems that arise. This helps the vendor to better understand the issue and get the job done on the first attempt.
Managing Maintenance Concerns
Whether choosing to hire a maintenance technician or to contract out your maintenance needs, the management of your unit’s maintenance can be overwhelming to a new unit commander that has no prior knowledge of the aviation world. Normal transition time into this position can be anywhere from six months to one year, depending on the complexity of the aviation unit’s needs. Having a maintenance technician on staff greatly reduces the transition time needed.
The goal of proper maintenance management is to assure that the aviation unit operates at the utmost efficiency, without compromising safety.
Editor’s Note: David "Bart" Bartkowiak is the Maintenance Moderator of APSA’s website discussion board and a member of APSA’s Safety subcommittee. He recently retired after almost 20 years of service with the City of Warren Police Aviation Unit. Mr. Bartkowiak is currently employed by CJ Systems Aviation Group as a Base Site Mechanic at Flight For Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Who’s Ultimately Responsible For Airworthiness?
By Keith Johnson
APSA Safety Program Manager
In an aviation unit, a quality maintenance management system develops a healthy relationship with maintenance personnel, whether maintenance is performed within the organization or by an outside vendor. And developing such a relationship is no small feat, as it can directly correlate to an organization's ability to eliminate accidents and maintain a safe, reliable fleet of aircraft.
Pilots and supervisors need to know the airworthiness status of each aircraft operated by their organization. The ultimate responsibility for determining the airworthiness of an aircraft prior to flight rests on the shoulders of the pilot. But, management also has a responsibility to determine the airworthiness of the aircraft prior to assigning the aircraft to a mission and must take the necessary steps to ensure that the flight being planned will not extend beyond the time of the next scheduled maintenance. This information is documented in the aircraft maintenance logbook and must remain accessible to aircrews and supervision even if maintenance is performed at a site other than the location of the aviation unit.
Many organizations use an aircraft status board to help track the maintenance status of aircraft. This is an effective management tool that should contain the following:
Aircraft flight status or airworthiness.
Current Hobbs time.
Hobbs time for the next required maintenance.
"N" number of the aircraft.
Comments that may alert the pilot to airworthiness issues.
It has been my experience that all too frequently, airworthiness related entries of an informal nature, such as a note, are left in the logbook and/or discrepancy log by both maintenance and flight personnel. This is generally done to circumvent grounding the aircraft. This is not acceptable. Informal notes undermine the safety culture of the organization, create confusion and can result in an aircraft being flown that is not airworthy.
Pilots, mechanics or other authorized personnel should document discrepancies in a formal record, frequently referred to as a "squawk book." Any discrepancy must be addressed and signed off by authorized personnel prior to the aircraft being flown. Refer to CFR Part 91.405 and Part 43 for details about maintenance requirements.
There should be a separate entry for each discrepancy, including:
Date of the entry.
Current Hobbs time.
Description of the discrepancy.
Name of the person making the entry.
Addressing the discrepancy does not necessarily mean that the repair has been made.
Consider the following example. During preflight, the pilot determines that a position light is out and documents the discrepancy in the squawk book. However, the flight is scheduled for daytime only, and the position light is not required for daytime operations. Given prior authorization from the FAA to utilize a minimum equipment list, the pilot should state that FAR 91.209a only requires position lights from sunset to sunrise and sign his name in the discrepancy log. He has addressed the discrepancy, and the aircraft is legal to fly during the daytime, notwithstanding any other electrical problem associated with the bad position light. The repair must still be made in a timely manner and signed off by a certified mechanic. In no case should repairs be delayed beyond the next required inspection.
In any event, it is always essential to document seemingly minor discrepancies such as burned out position lights. A series of burned out position lights gone unreported and replaced by different personnel could fail to identify, for example, a more serious vibration problem in the drive train that is causing the position lights to fail.
Another maintenance management tool is your Safety Committee. Having a Safety Committee should be a mandatory element of every organization and should include a representative from maintenance. When questions about maintenance issues arise, they can, therefore, be immediately addressed. This makes them part of your team and promotes a strong safety culture with your maintainers.
CFR Part 91.407 states that no person may operate any aircraft that has undergone maintenance, preventive maintenance, or rebuilding unless the aircraft has been approved to return to service by a person authorized under Part 43.7. Additionally, all of the maintenance record entries must have been made. This means all of the paperwork must be completed before releasing the aircraft for flight.
Part 91.407 further states that an appropriately rated pilot may be required to conduct an operational flight check. I strongly recommend that persons assigned to conduct operational flight checks complete the factory maintenance course for the make and model aircraft being flown. After all, consider the relative low cost of training compared to the high cost of a hot-start and engine damage that can occur when specific run-up procedures are not followed after a fuel controller has been changed.
Get to know your maintenance inspectors from your local FAA Flight Standards District Office. They're a great source of information. Consider inviting them to speak at a training day. Have them conduct periodic safety inspections and encourage them to conduct unannounced visits. This sends the message that you want to do the right things, and do things right.
Remember, safety in flight is directly proportional to the quality of maintenance performed on your aircraft. And, a pat on the back is always better than a broken arm. So let your maintainers know you appreciate their hard work and dedication to safety. Our lives depend on them.
Supreme Court of Canada Rules on FLIR Issue
By Mark Colborn
Dallas PD Helicopter Unit
The United States Supreme Court surprised the U.S. law enforcement community in 2001 with a totally unexpected FLIR decision in U.S. v. Kyllo. Because of that decision, Mounties and municipal officers in Canada had been collectively holding their breath until October 29 of last year, when the Supreme Court of Canada in Ontario released its decision on the issue. Luckily, common sense prevailed and won the day for our brothers in blue, or rather, red, up North!
Our Supreme Court Justices, using the Kyllo case, decided to nip in the bud all use of future or emerging technologies that could invade or intrude on the activities of persons in a home, without first obtaining a warrant. The Supreme Court of Canada, however, chose to rule on the facts of the case before them and ruled no warrant was required to use a thermal imaging device on a home.
"FLIR technology cannot, in its present state of development, permit any inferences about the precise activity giving rise to the heat," the court stated. "Technology must be evaluated according to its current capability and its evolution in the future dealt with step by step," the court furthered.
This is precisely what Chief Justice Rehnquist eloquently argued during oral arguments in the Kyllo case. "I think in a Fourth Amendment case, we decide what was actually done, not what something was capable of doing," Chief Justice Rehnquist stated. In Kyllo, an Agema 210 hand-held thermal imager had been used, a relatively simple, second-generation thermal imager. The Court acknowledged that the technology used in the Kyllo case was "relatively crude." Unfortunately, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court did not share Justice Rehnquist’s vision of the scope of their job, and created new Fourth Amendment Law.
The facts in R. v. Walter Tessling, 2004 SCC 67 (the case heard by the Canadian Supreme Court), are similar to many thermal imaging cases. The RCMP used an airplane equipped with a Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) camera to observe Tessling’s house in Kingsville, Ontario. The RCMP was able to obtain a search warrant for Tessling’s home based on the FLIR observation and that of two informants. Once in the house, RCMP officers found a large marijuana grow operation and several guns. Tessling attempted to argue at his trial that the FLIR observation was a violation of his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed by Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court disagreed, and Tessling was convicted. The Court of Appeal for Ontario, however, felt that the court should have excluded all evidence and acquitted Tessling on all charges. The Court of Appeal ruled that the use of the FLIR technology to observe Tessling’s home constituted a search and, since it was done without a warrant, violated his Section 8 rights.
Her Majesty the Queen (or more specifically the Attorney General of Canada, Toronto) appealed. The Honorable Justice William Ian Corneil Binnie (writing for the court) began his analysis of the case using a precedented approach to Section 8 established by the Court early in its history, which made privacy the dominant organizing principle in search and seizure cases.
Justice Binnie summarized an earlier Canadian Supreme Court decision, which stated that there is a "bewildering array of different techniques available to the police (either existing or under development)," and a "catalogue of what is or is not permitted under s. 8 is scarcely feasible."
Therefore, a 1996 decision by the same court, according to Justice Binnie, requires the court to consider the "totality of the circumstances" and place particular emphasis on (1) the existence of a subjective expectation of privacy and (2) the objective reasonableness of the expectation.
This approach to the privacy issue is similar to the way U.S. courts address the privacy issue. Section 8 protects personal privacy, territorial privacy and informational privacy. Thus, Justice Binnie spent a great deal of time in his decision analyzing the concept of where the "reasonableness" line should be drawn in these three tenets. Justice Binnie made the distinction between informational and territorial privacy, disagreeing with the Appeal Court that treated the FLIR image as an equivalent to a search of the home. "I think it is more accurately characterized as an external search for information about the home which may or may not be capable of giving rise to an inference about what was actually going on inside," Justice Binnie said.
Justice Binnie, placing more emphasis on the informational aspect, focused on the quality of the information that the FLIR image could actually deliver. The Appeal Court, according to Binnie, looked more to the "theoretical capacity" of the FLIR technology citing the prediction stated by the lower court: "[t]he nature of the intrusiveness is subtle but almost Orwellian in its theoretical capacity." Justice Binnie stated: "In my view, with respect, the reasonableness line has to be determined by looking at the information generated by existing FLIR technology, and then evaluating its impact on a reasonable privacy interest." He further stated that as FLIR technology evolved or became more intrusive, then it would be a different case with the privacy issues dealt with at the time, in light of the facts as they might then exist. Perhaps this judge was a guest in the gallery during the Kyllo arguments and heard Justice Rehnquist’s remarks.
Justice Binnie was confused by what Justice Scalia (writing for the majority in Kyllo) meant by "a device that is not in general public use." Justice Binnie felt this phrase was "vague" and "takes in a lot of territory."
Justice Binnie answered his own question, which asked what was considered the test for "general public use": "In my view, the issue is not whether FLIR technology puts the police inside the home (because it does not) or whether FLIR is in general public use (it is not), but rather the nature and quality of the information about activities in the home that the police are able to obtain. The evidence is that a FLIR image of heat emanations is, on its own, ‘meaningless.’ That is the bottom line."
Ruling to allow the appeal and restore the conviction of Tessling, Justice Binnie stated: "External patterns of heat distribution on the external surfaces of a house is not information in which the respondent (Tessling) had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The heat distribution, as stated, offers no insight into his private life, and reveals nothing of his ‘biological core of personal information.’ Its disclosure scarcely affects the ‘dignity, integrity and autonomy’ of the person whose house is subject of the FLIR image."
The Tessling decision reaffirmed an earlier decision by the Supreme Court of British Columbia released on September 19, 2001. In R. v. Campbell, Docket #112057T, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the use of a thermal imager on a home to identify heat emissions was not a search and did not require a search warrant.
The Honorable Justice Melvin examined the Kyllo decision in the United States and stated that he was "impressed" with the view of the minority and preferred their views over that of the majority. Justice Melvin added, "Of course, as we all know, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States are not binding on this Court."