Shooting from helicopter with open door

Discussion in 'Aerial and Drone' started by Mary Doo, Dec 18, 2020.

  1. Would someone who has had experience shooting stills and or video from an open-door on a helicopter, using a monkey belt, tell me something about the experience? I will be booking one of these over the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe unless it is too intimidating. I had shot from a helicopter before but through enclosed windows, and from a Cessna sticking my camera out of the window, but not open door with a monkey belt. Please let me know something about the experience, do's and don'ts, or even if this is advisable at all. Thanks.
    invisibleflash and mikemorrell like this.
  2. I've flown in conventional high wing aircraft with the door off while covering golf tournaments and such. I get a nose bleed standing on a step ladder, but somehow that goes away when I'm holding a camera. Helicopters are another thing. Every piece of a helicopter is subject to scheduled replacement, whereas conventional aircraft require only inspection for most parts. There is a reason for that, and it's not especially reassuring.

    On the other hand, my drone has no doors, and invokes no fear of flying (other than economic).

    Seriously, no part of your upper body should contact the airframe. My flying experience predates image stabilization by decades, but IS can't even overcome vibrations in a moving automobile. Secondly, you will probably want a much wider lens for aerial landscapes than imagined, and little opportunity to swap lenses with one foot on the landing rail.
    Mary Doo likes this.
  3. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... forget the inferior
    monkey belts... use a Great
    Ape belt...
  4. Helicopters vibrate, a lot.

    High shutter speed is essential.

    Mosi-oa-Tunya is probably a better name for the falls

    Ricochetrider and Mary Doo like this.
  5. Try to book a flight to Baile Atha Cliath and see whether you get a funny look or end up in Dublin ;)
  6. True, true, :cool:

    BUT much depends on where you ask. In Zambia or Zimbabwe, the Queen-Empress is not as popular as in England.
  7. The Queen Empress was a big hit in Ireland ;)
  8. Not sure what you are trying to get at but booking a flight to Victoria Falls (VFA) is rather straightforward.
  9. It's as easy as booking a flight to Dublin, if you call it by a name recognized in the Western world for over 150 years.
    Ludmilla and Mary Doo like this.
  10. [
    It's always better to look up the IATA airport code when searching for a flight. A fancy name may lead to a circuitous waste of time if it works at all. ;)
    ] likes this.
  11. Too literal, I was responding to the locally unpopular use of colonial era names...
    Mary Doo likes this.
  12. If you value your life, stay out of helicopters. They are the most dangerous form of transportation known to man.
    Mary Doo likes this.
  13. Why? I always thought they were much safer than conventional small aircraft.
    Mary Doo likes this.
  14. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I found this through a google search:

    "Looking at all aviation types — including commercial — there's a slightly higher rate of fatal accident for helicopters than aviation overall, according to FAA data cited by the Telegraph. The data show 0.84 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours across all types of aviation in the US, versus 1.02 for helicopters."

    quoted from

    Despite a few high-profile incidents, helicopters are generally safe to fly — as long as proper safety procedures are followed
    Mary Doo likes this.
  15. Arthur, you scared me a bit. Then I researched - yes it can be more dangerous than regular plane flights, but riding a car is more dangerous as far as statistics are concerned. Now this is interesting. I also wrote to the tour operator, who in turn checked with the helicopter operator. She said these flights are safe when operated by reputable companies. The helicopter operator thinks the monkey-belt should not be a concern. Hwvr, they can provide a clean panoramic glass panel as Plan B in the event it does not work out.

    Thanks everyone.
  16. Mary, I had worked in the offshore oil business for a several years and have flown in a variety of helicopters a few thousand times in the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea and off the coast of Brazil. They always felt safe to me. I am sure the monkey harness will be very secure, more secure than the seat belts I wore (although there usually were doors on the helicopter). The windows on a regular helicopter are made of thin plexiglass so they were not very clear for photographic purposes. I would prefer to shoot without windows or glass.
    Enjoy your trip.
    Mary Doo likes this.
  17. Ask Kobe Bryant’s wife.

    There are much more photographic opportunities in East Africa than waterfalls. Buy a decent postcard or license JDM’s pic.
  18. If you find a reliable company, a helicopter flight for the purpose of photography is rather safe. Many of the flights that get into trouble, in helicopters or fixed wing aircraft, are those that take to the air when conditions are marginal. For a photographer, there is absolutely no reason to go up in poor visibility or choppy weather. Let us know how it went after you return.
    G&R, luis triguez and Mary Doo like this.
  19. The OP should be discouraged from taking unnecessary risks (and costs) in order to take such a cliched photo.
  20. It's not just for the photography. It will be an experience. I had flown through Nepal on a helicopter on a non-photographic occasion and it was tremendous. By the way, I was not asking your advice whether I should or should not be on a helicopter. Thanks anyway.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
    Ed_Ingold likes this.

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