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Yet Another Fatal Wirestrike

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Yet Another Fatal Wirestrike

Old 22nd Dec 2021, 16:41
  #61 (permalink)  
 
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,...helicopter day VFR operations in Class G airspace enjoy the following weather minimum requirements: 1/2 mile visibility and clear of clouds
Used to be just "clear of clouds".

Has that added 1/2 mile vis. made any different?
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Old 22nd Dec 2021, 16:59
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@#58, #59, #60;

Thanks all, interesting, (but a bit scary to be honest !).

I remember in my early training days being in the back of a PA-28, with an instructor and my colleague in the front. They were flying below MORA near the Sandy television mast (UK) in legal - though not brilliant - VMC. I piped up and suggested it would be a very good idea to get above MORA - especially since none of us knew exactly where the mast was - which I am very pleased to say they did.

Re Gordy's circuit, ah, the sort of circuit with wires. Sorry, I was thinking flying circuits - Doh !
.

Last edited by Uplinker; 22nd Dec 2021 at 17:15.
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Old 22nd Dec 2021, 17:17
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Originally Posted by Robbiee View Post

Used to be just "clear of clouds".

Has that added 1/2 mile vis. made any different?
Couldn't tell you. It's always been 1/2 mile/CoC for me.

I've only launched into conditions that forced me to stay in Class G three times, each time primarily because of low ceilings. One time was a ferry flight. Wound up doing a "land and live" evolution (not that I felt like I was going to die, but it was impossible to get over a certain ridge line). Got a cup of coffee, waited it out 45 minutes, and was able to continue. Another time was no problem. Third time I was getting lower and slower, looked ahead, turned to the client and said, "Nope, can't go further, how about we turn around and do the area up north today, then come back here tomorrow?" Which we did, and which ultimately only put him a 1/2 hour over his minimum time for the next day, so not too bad. Low ceilings don't bother me so much, but those three flights have proven that my natural reaction is to quit when I've got less than a mile vis and have to get below 400AGL and/or 60KN. I can't imagine following a road at 100AGL at 40KN. I like a little in the bank visibility-wise. I'm also one of those guys that leaves three seconds between cars on the highway so that everyone cuts in front me all the time
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Old 22nd Dec 2021, 22:52
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Originally Posted by Robbiee View Post
Used to be just "clear of clouds".
FYI: the Part 91 rules got changed around 2014 or so when the Part 135 EMS helicopter rules went through some big changes on minimums.

pre-2014:
https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/...-sec91-155.pdf
post 2014:
https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-1...55#p-91.155(b)

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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 00:50
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Originally Posted by aa777888 View Post
I can't imagine following a road at 100AGL at 40KN.
Fortunately flying from A to B at 40kn is highly uneconomic and in many situations not reasonably justifiable anyways. Especially when you factor in a fair chance of turning around or precautionary landing in the middle of nowhere.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 02:52
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As for being "a tough crowd"? I think we damn well should be a tough crowd to ourselves as an industry because these kind of "accidents" and near misses simply should not be happening anywhere near as frequently as they are
In the process of being tough we need to be cognisant of the human, no human is perfect. Why do we have collisions on the roads where we operate in very benign circumstances?
After 40 years in the cockpit, I realise that not highlighting the errors of others is the mistake - we hide behind no-blame culture and paper-safety from SMS so we can can keep taking those risks because we are pilots and clearly a cut above the rest of the human race (or so many of us seem to think).

Flying into a set of wires you didn't know were there is unfortunate - flying into a set you did know was there is a failure to aviate properly.
From my incident can you tell me how I failed to aviate properly? Clearly an error, but explain to me in simple language why it occurred, as would be written in a incident report by investigators. Trying to lay "blame" on an individual is a failure to learn from the particular incident, examine the cause of the accident and try to learn something from it. With this particular incident we have absolutely no idea what the pilots motivations were, nor the circumstances surrounding the flight, or pressures he may have been facing. One thing we do know with accuracy, he didn't get out of bed that morning and say to himself "today I commit suicide".

Glad you've survived 40 years Crab, I survived a paltry 38 of professional, and a goodly portion of that was for a muti national listed in the top ten where we were obliged to turn the other way when rules were mentioned. Life is not as simple as you like it to be.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 03:09
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Originally Posted by whoknows idont View Post
Fortunately flying from A to B at 40kn is highly uneconomic and in many situations not reasonably justifiable anyways. Especially when you factor in a fair chance of turning around or precautionary landing in the middle of nowhere.
Yeah, but see, there are a gazillion different scenarios and circumstances to make any hard-and-fast "rules." Every flight department is different. Every boss is different. Every mission is different.

I used to fly for a rich guy (FAR Part 91) whose home base was down here along the U.S. gulf coast. He had a hunting camp about 65 miles north - about 35-40 minutes on a good day. Easy-peasy. This part of the state is mostly flat, open farmland, and we could easily and safely do the flight at 400' agl if we had to. Except... Except there was one area...not really a "ridge"...just some higher ground that ran perpendicular to our flight path between here and there. We knew the terrain - knew the roads and knew there were no antennas or powerlines along the way. We'd done the route dozens of times over the years.

Sure enough, one day we launched under a low ceiling and were plugging along at 300-400 feet. All was good until we got to that high point, where the clouds were down in the trees. I slowed down and got down over a lightly traveled country road. I won't lie, it was tense, and I'm sure that the few car drivers we encountered thought we were crazy. After what seemed like an eternity, the ground fell away and gave us some clearance between it and the clouds. We continued on to the hunting camp. Was it horribly unsafe? I didn't think so. However, I don't think the FAA would've been too impressed. But this was before the rule changed to the "1/2-mile minimum viz" requirement.

Helicopters fly low - it's what we do: off-airport to off-airport. Sometimes, the only reason we go to an actual airport is to get fuel. And a lot of times, we fly in weather conditions that keep our fixed-wing brethren cowering like scared little girls in pilot lounges all across the nation, gazing out the window and going, "It's 900 and 2.5 out there. Look at that crazy helicopter pilot - he's gonna get himself killed! Let's get another cup of this 'free' coffee and if it hasn't improved in fifteen minutes, let's...and by "let's" I mean "you" call the boss and tell him that we're cancelled for the day."
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 06:57
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From my incident can you tell me how I failed to aviate properly?
Megan - you didn't. My comment was about Gordy's incident which was clearly a loss of SA.

Finding unexpected wires is part of life as a helicopter pilot, especially when other pressures such as life-saving are brought into the equation.

We had to be able to land pretty much anywhere, day or night, and only constant awareness and a thorough recce prevented mishaps - I have lost count of times we had a late spot of wires on final approach.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 07:05
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I can't imagine following a road at 100AGL at 40KN.
You wouldn't have enjoyed the road from Port Stanley to Mount Pleasant Airfield (Falklands) in the dark at 30' and 30 kts then - thunderstorms all around (no IFR option) and minefields either side of the road (no landing option).
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 13:06
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you didn't
That'll allow me to sleep tonight, thanks. Its been something I've pondered over the years, did I allow emotion to over ride reason. When EMS began as an industry I remember the advice "don't take any notice of the patient less it detract from your performance". The advice came too late for me.

Well remember a medevac of an old Vietnamese woman dressed in the typical black pajamas. She was standing in a rice paddy with the opening scene of "Apocalypse Now" playing in the background as F-5s worked over a village. Clutched to her chest she was a bundle that I took to be personal possessions. In the cruise looked back to see her sitting in the middle of the five across Huey seats, as we flew with the rear doors open the slipstream was plucking at her pajamas, the slipstream afforded a look at what she had clutched to her chest, the bled out body of a child no more than nine months old, missing both legs at the groin and an arm at the shoulder, yet the old woman was staring straight ahead through the windscreen, unblinking, with a look that said "this is how we live". Cried so much the co-pilot offered to take over, I declined, as if I was going to bring some personal restoration to sanity.

Had its black humour moments though, picked up a load of wounded ARVN solders when one of the backseaters said look at this. Turned around and one soldier was on his knees with trouser lowered to same and proudly showing his penis, or rather where it should be, severed completely at the base by a gun shot we were told, a surgeon couldn't have done a better job. He thought it a great joke, wonder if he later realised the limited options he may face in future life.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 18:28
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Originally Posted by FH1100 Pilot View Post
Yeah, but see, there are a gazillion different scenarios and circumstances to make any hard-and-fast "rules." Every flight department is different. Every boss is different. Every mission is different.

I used to fly for a rich guy (FAR Part 91) whose home base was down here along the U.S. gulf coast. He had a hunting camp about 65 miles north - about 35-40 minutes on a good day. Easy-peasy. This part of the state is mostly flat, open farmland, and we could easily and safely do the flight at 400' agl if we had to. Except... Except there was one area...not really a "ridge"...just some higher ground that ran perpendicular to our flight path between here and there. We knew the terrain - knew the roads and knew there were no antennas or powerlines along the way. We'd done the route dozens of times over the years.

Sure enough, one day we launched under a low ceiling and were plugging along at 300-400 feet. All was good until we got to that high point, where the clouds were down in the trees. I slowed down and got down over a lightly traveled country road. I won't lie, it was tense, and I'm sure that the few car drivers we encountered thought we were crazy. After what seemed like an eternity, the ground fell away and gave us some clearance between it and the clouds. We continued on to the hunting camp. Was it horribly unsafe? I didn't think so. However, I don't think the FAA would've been too impressed. But this was before the rule changed to the "1/2-mile minimum viz" requirement.

Helicopters fly low - it's what we do: off-airport to off-airport. Sometimes, the only reason we go to an actual airport is to get fuel. And a lot of times, we fly in weather conditions that keep our fixed-wing brethren cowering like scared little girls in pilot lounges all across the nation, gazing out the window and going, "It's 900 and 2.5 out there. Look at that crazy helicopter pilot - he's gonna get himself killed! Let's get another cup of this 'free' coffee and if it hasn't improved in fifteen minutes, let's...and by "let's" I mean "you" call the boss and tell him that we're cancelled for the day."
Your last paragraph shows the attitude that will keep killing helicopter pilots. I get that we operate differently to fixed wing around weather. This is because we can slow down or land as it turns crap. They can't therefore have higher mins. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have any minima.

Your story reads like you were hover taxiing at or below tree top height in cloud just to drop a dude at his hunting spot. You said yourself it was tense but I get the feeling you would do it again. Just because we CAN do that doesn't mean we SHOULD do it. Had you been on a rescue then yeah maybe that's worth it but in your case the juice ain't worth the squeeze.
I do want to note that I have never faced the commercial pressure that does appear to be the main issue
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 19:06
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Hmmm, I didn't realise this was a willy waving exercise, #67. Next time I have to divert because of low viz at my primary destination, perhaps I won't, just to prove how macho I am.

Remind me never to use helicopters for personal transport. I mean, we could fly that low in our fixed wings, but we don't, partly because it's not very sensible and gives no margin for error, or obstructions.

Astonished to learn that helis routinely fly that low en route and ignore the MSAs and Grid MORAs or equivalent.

Not really surprising that helicopters hit wires if they fly that low.
.

Last edited by Uplinker; 29th Dec 2021 at 12:03.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 19:27
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Originally Posted by Gordy View Post

Here is a still from the video....me flying.... You see it?
Yes, I see the wire. The thought of hitting that over that valley isnít a happy one.

However, one thing we used to stress in the military was that when flying at low level was NEVER to fly down the middle of a valley, because as well as exposing yourself to enemy fire, thatís precisely where youíre most likely to encounter wires! Itís much safer to fly off to one side, near the apex of the higher terrain. Wires have to be supported at either end and there will be poles near the top of a hill in order to string them across a valley. The poles are generally much easier to spot than the wire itself.

Iím glad to say that Iím not ever going to be in that situation again (especially the 150í agl by night on NVG). The old heli pilotís nightmare of trying to pull up from low level only to be held down by wires above doesnít seem to trouble me these days.
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 20:08
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Originally Posted by Gordy View Post
Agreed, and some posters here just don't get it.... I cannot force you.


It was calm wind, good weather, good visibility, I knew the wire was in the area..... got complacent, lost situational awareness.... I was patrolling a different circuit at the time and was flying in the wire environment by choice.

PG&E did sponsor and pay for a video re-creation which forms part of the 8 hour class I teach. (Fun day---"Hey Gordy, we know you hit these wires but can you hover in front of them for 10 minutes while we film?".... Me: "Not a problem---not stressful at all"...said in a sarcastic voice). If you watched the USHST webinar 8 weeks ago you would have seen the video, they have yet to put it on their website. The video is proprietary therefore I cannot just post it, I will seek permission to post it here...give me a few days. Failing that, I am booked to present at the "Vertical Aviation Safety Conference" in Texas next year.

Here is a still from the video....me flying.... You see it?
.. saw it, but sneaky feeling that with any distraction at all it wouldnít have been soon enough

another vote for getting them in an intelligent automated warning system
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Old 23rd Dec 2021, 20:34
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
s NEVER to fly down the middle of a valley,
Agreed, but I was patrolling the distribution tap on the left that you cannot see.






Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
The poles are generally much easier to spot than the wire itself.
Yep, actually we teach not to look for wires but the indicators to the presence of wires...... Here is what the poles look like on each side-----a bad haircut, ask "why would there be a gap in the trees?"......aha moment...






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Old 24th Dec 2021, 05:42
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Originally Posted by Gordy View Post
Yep, actually we teach not to look for wires but the indicators to the presence of wires...... Here is what the poles look like on each side-----a bad haircut, ask "why would there be a gap in the trees?"......aha moment...
I still can't fathom why it isn't a legal requirement to use markers on spans like that.
You should try see and avoid on a zipline, even more exciting.
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Old 24th Dec 2021, 13:17
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Your story reads like you were hover taxiing at or below tree top height in cloud just to drop a dude at his hunting spot. You said yourself it was tense but I get the feeling you would do it again. Just because we CAN do that doesn't mean we SHOULD do it. Had you been on a rescue then yeah maybe that's worth it but in your case the juice ain't worth the squeeze.
Exactly right Vortexringshark - having a macho FIGJAM story to wow the boys in the bar just isn't worth it.
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Old 24th Dec 2021, 14:16
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Your story reads like you were hover taxiing at or below tree top height in cloud just to drop a dude at his hunting spot. You said yourself it was tense but I get the feeling you would do it again. Just because we CAN do that doesn't mean we SHOULD do it. Had you been on a rescue then yeah maybe that's worth it but in your case the juice ain't worth the squeeze.
I do want to note that I have never faced the commercial pressure that does appear to be the main issue
Commercial pressure has a great influence on the standards employed in an operation, and the owner of a private aircraft can demand the pilot delivers him to his destination, "Torch" Lewis, an aviator of some renown, used to write a column for the B&CA magazine, one of which was about flying an ILS in zero/zero conditions in a Lodestar because his boss demanded it. Of course the article was about the stupidity of doing so, but being a young man at the time when jobs were hard to get........... A multi national company demanded that its pilot not comply with certain regulations. All off shore operations required a land based alternate (eg in event of engine failure), it was stated so in the ops manual and also a supplement in the flight manual carried in the aircraft. How do you go about ensuring you have an alternate available, you get weather reports, right? No. Having to shut down off shore on a platform because home was closed due weather was a common practice. An aircraft was once inbound home and was told to land on a platform due fog rolling in at home. On the bare bones for fuel, had they landed on the platform they would then not have sufficient to get home (no fuel on rig), using a bit of the much talked about CRM it was decided to continue to onshore and land in a paddock where a fuel tanker could reach if required. Instead a safe landing was made at home but by the time the 2 minute cool down had run its course the vis was zip and the fuel gauge read four pounds above the reserve. Pilot pointed out that had he had an engine failure off shore the result would have been less than pretty because he'd have no where to land, other than a running landing into the sandy terrain with the little high pressure tyres of a 76, rabbit burrows to contend with also. Result? Pilot not permitted to log the ICUS time because he didn't make all the decisions ie you're not permitted to practice CRM, and they did some thing dangerous to prove a point. The point was proven but nothing done. The pilots were told you will do what you're told, the crew have no place in making decisions. At one time additional lift capacity was required so a commercial operator was given a contract, off shore people soon started complaining the contractor wasn't flying while the company aircraft were. Why? Commercial folk were following the rules. Why one of the richest multi national in the world operated in such a manner was all due to the management chain and KPI.
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Old 24th Dec 2021, 16:19
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Originally Posted by crab[email protected] View Post
Exactly right Vortexringshark - having a macho FIGJAM story to wow the boys in the bar just isn't worth it.
Surely you mean only some FIGJAM stories aren't worth it? Because clearly not all FIGJAM stories are bad. Like your Falklands "minefield runs"?

Military, public safety, and para-public operations often involve a very high level of complexity. More training and better equipment in this area seems to bring a level of "FIGJAM immunity" to that mission space. But the reality is, military, public, or private, the lords and masters weight the consequences and they decide on the price the organization, and the individuals that work for it, are willing/going to pay if it goes in the crapper. Don't want to wind up in the stockade? Fly the mission. Don't want to lose your job? Fly the mission.

But, but...it's probably really simpler than that. Everyone loves a challenge, helicopter pilots probably more than most. Thus there are no end of people who are willing and, more importantly, very happy, to take these risks. As long as these people exist organizations will take advantage of them, and if these people are flying for themselves, the risk is often eagerly self-assigned.
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Old 24th Dec 2021, 16:57
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Surely you mean only some FIGJAM stories aren't worth it? Because clearly not all FIGJAM stories are bad. Like your Falklands "minefield runs"?
I'm not sure I get your point aa777888 - I got caught out that night, under pressure to conduct a check-ride on the boss of the squadron with worse than forecast weather.

We were under a military version of commercial pressure and I took a calculated risk in launching on the sortie with the option of shutting down at Port Stanley if the weather took a turn for the worse.

I got it wrong and it closed in on us after we had left for MPA with no way back to Stanley and no place else to go except home.

We ended up using skills that would normally be reserved for operational, life-saving flying on a training sortie and that was my fault.

We survived due to being well-trained in that sort of flying not because we were better pilots.

Many who push the limits without being sufficiently trained, sadly end up like our pilot in New Orleans.

So, not intended as FIGJAM story, more a cautionary tale.
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