Last week my company started a lease on a new (to us) helicopter, that my friend and coworker Stephen Boatwright and I were sent to Pennsylvania to pick up and fly home to Dallas for maintenance in preparation for its temporary home in Maine. Although the terrain along the way is some of the most boring you can find in the USA (there's a reason they are called fly over states... a better name would be sleep over states), I came armed with my Nikon D810 ready to document our adventure. Due to the nature of this flight we were restricted to Day VFR flight only, which created an additional challenge for a long cross country trip. Stephen arrived several hours before me to get the helicopter preflighted, pulled out of the hangar, and ready to go. I flew into the nearest airport served by the airlines KPIT (Pittsburgh) at about 2pm and embarked on the hour long taxi ride to the small country airport KFWG where the helicopter was located.
With only about 4 hours of daylight remaining we set off on our first leg, 2 hours en-route to Cincinnati, OH. Stephen called the first leg, so I jumped into the left seat and strapped in.
With the sun low in the sky and a high overcast preventing that really nice golden hour light, I snapped a few somewhat blurry shots of life on the ground below. This helicopter was in fantastic shape. The cockpit extremely clean and the ride as smooth as it gets for a helicopter. With that said, its still a constant battle to get the shutter speed fast enough to compensate for the vibrations and yet keep the ISO low enough to prevent too much noise. In these photos I had forgotten to change my camera to Shutter priority and unfortunately the shutter speed was right around 1/400s and at full size the photos came out showing a slight amount of motion blur.
No less than 10 minutes into the flight, the master caution light illuminated, making us aware of a caution message on our instrument panel. The emergency hydraulic accumulator had lost about 1000 lbs of pressure.
I quickly snapped a photo to show the mechanics and put my camera away to run the emergency checklist. This is the back-up system to operate our landing gear, so we went ahead and lowered the gear using the normal hydraulic system and decided to return to our point of origin. The checklist calls for the aircraft to land as soon as practicable, so no emergency landing was necessary, Rostraver was still the closest airport, and fortunately the technicians at Uniflight were still around to help out. Upon landing, they quickly got to work at refilling the nitrogen, that keeps the back pressure on the hydraulic system.
After a successful repair and the paperwork filled out we were ready to give our trip another go. All in all the whole thing took about an hour of our precious daylight and we were up against the wire to get airborne, but not before refueling and making sure that everything was safely put back together and legal to fly. The team at Uniflight is top notch, not only were we incredibly impressed with their work, we also made some new friends.
Not only were we racing the sun to the West, but we were watching the weather closely as IFR conditions were approaching the Cincinnati area. I snapped one more photo as we recrossed the Monongahela River (this time remembering to put the camera into shutter priority) and then put the camera away to perform my navigation and weather radar operation duties.
We arrived at Cincinnati Lunken Airport (KLUK) with 1,500 ft ceilings just as daylight begun to slip away. We parked the helicopter at the FBO and locked her up for the night. After a quick search on our hotel app we found a brand new Hampton Inn right on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. After changing out of our flight suits we walked along the river in an upscale and almost empty shopping center to find something to eat, and of course, snap a few shots of the Cincinnati skyline. After a satisfying dinner at Bar Louie, we headed back to the hotel to get much need sleep in preparation for a long day of flying on Day 2 of the ferry flight.