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Helicopters and Volcanic Ash?

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Helicopters and Volcanic Ash?

Old 15th Apr 2010, 09:25
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Helicopters and Volcanic Ash?

It's an interesting morning out here in the North Sea...

As my door is being battered down by worried helicopter passengers asking what's going on, can I prevail upon you professionals for some answers to give them?

Why aren't helicopters flying when we understand that the volcanic ash is at a high level (just heard its at 6000m and above on the news).

I presume the ash would have exactly the same effect on helicopter turbines as on jet a/c? Also can it be confirmed that there is still no method of monitoring volcanic ash from your flight decks?

Personally I'd much rather you didn't fly if there was any question of problems being caused by the current situation, but others less aware need to be given good reasons why they will be stuck offshore for the next few days.

Thanks for any enlightenment
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 09:49
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All you need to tell them is that due to a volcanic ash cloud, it has been decided that airspace is closed until further notice, and this is being done for the safety of travellers. It's a saftey issue, surely that's all they need to know? Tell them to check the NATS website if they want more details, even though its just crashed due to everyone logging in!

It's not your fault, not your problem, and it's all part and parcel of air travel, ie 'Time to spare? Go by air' !!!

Wonder if North Sea pilots will get the day off?
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:02
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BBC News reporting one of the northern air ambulances are grounded - I think they said Yorkshire.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:18
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now I can understand airliners being grounded due to the level that the ash is at, and understandable if there was ash falling from the sky, a la Pompeii, but to ground helicopters too, which can quite legally fly around at 500' quite slowly in comparison to the big jets, just seems a bit of overkill to me, especially from where i'm sitting, I can see for over 10k easily.

it's just someone somewhere afraid to say it's ok to go.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:26
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Well, it's made the security much easier for the live debate today..........
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:32
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A Royal Air Force Sea King helicopter was forced to fly a critically ill patient from Scotland to London following the cancellations. She was flow from HMS Gannet at Prestwick to Regent's Park, then on to University College Hospital.
An RAF spokesman said: "We will continue to provide full search and rescue cover, however we will consider all requests we get on a case by case basis.
BBC News

Apart from the likelihood that it would have been a Royal Navy Sea King from HMS Gannet, how is the volcanic ash affecting other Rotorheads in Europe, as well as UK?
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:35
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which can quite legally fly around at 500' quite slowly in comparison to the big jets,
Not a helicopter man myself, but I would have thought that even if you are flying quite slowly your wings aren't. Would that be a cause for concern?
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:50
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With a proper particle separator/filter, I would not have expected volcanic ash to be any different to fly through than desert sand, bushfire smoke/embers, or any of the other conditions that are part and parcel of a helicopter pilot's life.

Not all of our machines have part seps, but there should be no reason why those that have, be prevented from flying: bearing in mind that the current NOTAM only restricts IFR flights.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 11:57
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How does this effect VFR Helicopter flights I was going to Ireland in a turbine on friday
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 12:05
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Current NOTAM

610000N 0100000W 610000N 0000000W 600000N 0000000W
570000N 0050000E 550000N 0050000E 530409N 0031619W
521700N 0004400W 512200N 0041300W 521000N 0062900W
535605N 0053533W 563400N 0040700W 591000N 0052400W
603243N 0100000W 610000N 0100000W SFC/UNL
Note: No IFR clearance
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 12:14
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For Rolls Royce 250 operators, there is CSL 1095 (C20 series) issued for flying in volcanic ash.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 12:35
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In Norway they have closed the entire Norwegian airspace, even the SAR and HEMS are grounded!
The only SAR machine available now is the one at Svalbard....

This is kind of crazy!

"We are put back 50 years" is the headline:- Vi er satt 50 år tilbake i tid | ABC Nyheter
"Dramatic when the helicopter can't fly because of volcanic ash":
- Dramatisk når helikopteret ikkje får flyge på grunn av vulkanaske - Møre og Romsdal - NRK Nyhende

The airspace will open on friday, if not later.

"Volcanic ash is hard to detect from an aircraft, and is not visible on the weatherradar.
The most dangerous aspect is that the particles'(ash) meltingpoint is lower than the turbines' working-temp. This leads to the ash melting to a thick, lava-like fluid, that slowly floats into the engine and causing it to shut down.
The ashparticles are very hard, with sharp edges, effectively sand-blowing leading edges.
The windshields are most vulnerable, turning matte, and the pilot's loose visibility."

-From the Norwegian Meterological Institute.

Where I am, the weather is:
METAR 151120Z 02006KT 320V050 9999 FEW030 BKN055 09/02 Q1015

If there is such a danger involved in flying helicopters VFR, then the air should be so saturated with volcanic ash that it would be dangerous to stay outside without any protection (face-mask etc), wouldn't it????
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 13:02
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All in line with the contingency plan - why try to double guess the experts?


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Old 15th Apr 2010, 13:02
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To me closing the entire airspace is a CYA move. Best way to prevent accidents is to not let anybody fly..

However, like not all humidity and low temperatures are "icing conditions",there must be something about the concentration of ash particles that determines whether or not it becomes a safety hazard.

Flying VMC/VFR means you should be able to "see and avoid". To prevent the general public from flying VFR is something I can understand, but to totally ban SAR/HEMS on the basis of perceived safety/unsafety seems excessive.
Especially when helicopters are suited to land at the merest hint of (engine) trouble, with no doubt a highly alert crew under the circumstances.

But hey, I am just a pilot..apparently I cannot be trusted to make sensible decisions in todays PC world.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 13:19
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Jetstream forecasts show that the ash will be taken east and south away from UK. Turkey & Greece by Saturday.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 13:20
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Something you need to consider is the cover that will be provided under a warranty or service plan if engines are contaminated having flown against, prevailing advice. That is why I am grounded. There is no cover and a large bill could result.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 13:30
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Mick85, I understand.
For a commercial operator or a private hire certainly something to be taken very seriously.

But operations with the aim to aid those in peril, like SAR and HEMS have another cost/benefit analysis. Certainly the engines would suffer (how much? we don't really know as we know nothing about the concentration levels, especially at low altitudes) but would that be worth it if you can save a life?
Which does not mean you have to risk 3 to 6 lives to save one, but that is why a responsible crew should have the option of weighing the information and make sensible decisions. Mitigate the ever present risks is what it is all about.

I just think that blanket restrictions usually are very shortsighted and stupid.
And aviation seems to suffer more and more from them.
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 13:58
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The Isle of Man has closed its airspace to ALL aircraft both VFR and IFR with a 12 mile radius of the coast.

Great for me but not so great for my Boss!
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 15:08
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I am planning flying vfr London to Yorkshire this afternoon ....i am still not aware of any ban on vfr ???
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Old 15th Apr 2010, 15:16
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Well ive just this minute come off the phone to Cardiff Tower and they are saying that VFR is ok, they have suggested I read Notam H902/10 issued this morning.

Just spoken to Maintenance Org to look at the Rolls Royce flight in volcanic dust advice and that basically says avoid it if you can but have more compressor washes and watch out for reduced power !!
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