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Importing a Hughes 500 helicopter from the USA

Hughes 500c HS Helicopter

Hughes 500c HS Helicopter with Lee

Joel has asked me to write a short piece on my experiences of bringing a Hughes 500 back from the USA to the UK so here goes.

I’m Lee Jones ,my day job is as a Captain on Airbus A320/321 for Monarch Airlines based at Manchester Ringway. I have long had an interest in helis and got my PPL (H) about 5 years ago. The Hughes and MDH product line has always been a favourite of mine due to its great handling, versatility and above all it supposed ‘relatively’ lower operating costs.

The 500 has since gone through several owners including the Hughes Tool Company ,McDonnel Douglas, Boeing and now MDH Inc. Continue reading


G-LADZ comes a cropper!!!!

G-LADZ_311009_001It’s not G-LADZ’s year having come a cropper whilst stood minding it’s own business at Sleap Airfield (EGCV) today. As can be seen by the picture, a Cessna ploughed into the side of it whilst it was stood waiting to be refuelled.

G-LADZ owners, and myself, were sat having a coffee in the lounge when the crash alarm was activated and we all instinctively went to look out of the window to see if all was O.K. – only to discover that LADZ had been unceremoniously assaulted without provocation. The elderly pilot of the Cessna had apparently applied full throttle whilst taxiing from the AVGAS pumps and had ploughed straight into the side of the Enstrom. Fortunately no-one was hurt and the RFFS team were on hand to ensure that there was no fire.

LADZ was parked in the designated JET A1 refuelling area but fortunately had not yet uplifted fuel (otherwise that would have been a waste of JET A1!!!). Regrettably there is a significant amount of damage to G-LADZ and whether it survives to tell the tale will remain to be seen. Either way it’s a terrible shame as it’s only just been released to service following it’s dramatic landing recently when the gearbox failed in flight.

Fortunately most of the LADZ boys have Jet Ranger ratings so I guess my machine will be seeing some more action. I’ll keep you all posted!!!

Safe landing for the lads in G-LADZ!!

g-ladz_01G-LADZ, my first chopper, was involved in a precautionary landing just south of Biggin Hill over the weekend after it suddenly developed severe vibration, accompanied by not very healthy sounding banging noises, whilst in the climb.

I wasn’t in the aircraft, an Enstrom 480, but three of my closest mates were and I’m obviously pleased to report that they got the machine down safely into a field.

LADZ had been on a continuation training exercise, navigating the London Heli Routes, with Steve and Mike (two of the owners) and JJ. They had completed one trip and then popped into a pre-arranged helicopter fly in for lunch before setting out on their return trip. The lads had just received clearance from Thames radar to enter there area and were approximately 4 miles south of H4 (the route that takes them along the Thames river) when their problem presented itself. Continue reading

TT Straps

TT Straps

TT Straps

Oh the joys of Jet Ranger ownership!

My two years are up and the life of my (probably perfectly serviceable) Tension Torsion (TT) Straps has ended.

The straps only have a 1,200 hour life,  or 24 months, and are probably the biggest complaint of every Jet Ranger owner (and for that matter, every other helicopter owner that utilises them,  including the boys from G-LADZ). The straps are really a large rubber band and effectively keep the main rotor blades attached to the mast.

The straps were traditionally changed “on condition” but  3 serious incidents of TT Strap separation changed all that. These incidents took place over an 11 year period covering nearly 7,000,000 flight hours. All the incidents were judged to be from corrosion which had occurred because the aircraft concerned were operating in a highly corrosive environment.  Bell then issued a directive that the straps should be replaced every 1,200 hours. A further insident with a Bell 212 at 22 months, then added the 24 month restriction. Most JetBox pilots argue that the limitation should not apply unless the aircraft is operated in a similar environment to the incident related aircraft (though to be sea water). But in 2004 bell stated:-

“In aircraft certification terms, it is not possible for different retirement lives to be assigned a given part number contingent upon the operating environment. Therefore, just as in all published retirement lives, the existing 24-month retirement life results from the worst-known case.”

Apparently Bell are testing a new design which might increase the life to 36 months but to date, although the straps are being evaluated in the field, they have not yet received approval.

So until then we’ll all be chucking perfectly serviceable parts in the bin at an extortionate £6k-£7K price tag and you guessed it, my machine is off to PDG at Wolverhampton for two days.!

“Ouch” does not begin to describe it!!!!


route1Today’s planned two ship trip to Conwy swung into action at 10:30. Steve H and I were to take G-LADZ and G-EWAW in formation down to the welsh coast. It was actually a trip that steve was doing with a friend, Darren, and his young son, Chris, but I gatecrashed with another of our pals Andy H who also owns a share in LADZ. Andy was going to keep me company on the way there and back. The destination was a private landing site set in approximateley 10 acres and was not likeley to present any challenging flying given the weather :-

EGCC 210920Z 27006KT 9999 FEW009 SCT020 07/05 Q1032 BECMG BKN014

EGOV 210850Z AUTO 27009KT 9999NDV // BKN025/// 07/05 Q1033

EGGP 210920Z 29012KT 9999 FEW024 SCT038 07/05 Q1032

Continue reading


wx-map Isn’t this WX map just typical of Manchester weather? O.K. to be fair, the south east of England isn’t looking too great, and it’s flyable I suppose, but it’s just amazing how everywhere around Manch is niceley VFR, but were marginal as ever.!!

I’m itching to go flying ,and I’ve got a tentative plan to go down to North Wales with Steve and G-LADZ tomorrow, but i’m going to have to try to resist getting my machine out of her pyjamas and burning off some JET-A1 this afternoon.

New Pyjamas

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I really should order some decent covers to protect G-EWAW when inclement weather is due in. I do cover her up but only partially and I wanted to make it easier to do it when I did.

I flew down with my pal Steve (from G-LADZ) to CopterCovers in shropshire, landing in their private field, and had a little tour of their workshops. They manufacture covers for a range of helicopters and also for the military. After my visit I ordered a full set of covers and I’m expecting to have them in the next few weeks.

Apparenty though some have already arrived at my office (i’d agreed that they should send them in stages so I can use them) so I’m going to go up and get them!