PRECAUTIONS DURING ELECTION FLYING
Flying during elections is a very challenging task and as such, all the professionals associated with the election Flying need to exercise extreme caution. Number of Aircraft and Helicopters will be crisscrossing to ferry the political parties all over election states. Lack of co-ordination among the operators, pilots, aircraft and helicopters, inadequate Air Traffic Control, hurriedly prepared makeshift dusty helipads, poor crowd control, inadequate security, commercial, political parties and VIP pressures, adverse Weather conditions, heavy quantum of flying, large number of landings, pilot and Crew members fatigue, inadequate rest and recreation facilities and rushed up maintenance are some of the serious hazards during election flying.
Hence, it is essential to have high level of preparations, planning and coordination to ensure that the Election flying is conducted in a safe and efficient manner.
Although most of the pilots and other crew members are highly competent, knowledgeable and safety minded professionals and has been involved in Election Flying earlier, yet it is essential to refresh our memory so that we are better prepared to meet the challenges posed during election flying. Prepare well for the hectic flying and maintenance activity keeping in mind the daily maintenance requirements and periodic inspections.
Following precautions are recommended:-
- On reaching your launching base, kindly liaise with the airport authorities, Officer in charge Security, fire fighting, refueling and ground handling agencies.
- It is essential to conduct a co ordination meeting among all the operators, officials from Air port, Security, fire fighting, ground handling and hospitals before the commencement of the operations.
- It may be a difficult task but make efforts to know the following days flying program of various helicopters, aircraft operating in the area and ascertain changes in the program before commencement of flying.
- Organize and attend preflight briefing with other operators and get to know their program and undertake necessary co ordination.
- All the pilots must be familiar with the frequency to be used with in control zone and in the area of operations.
- Heights/Altitude to be maintained during en route flying both inbound and outbound must be finalized during the coordination meeting and ensure that all the pilots operating in the area are familiar with the same and adhere to it strictly.
- Remember that there will be large number of Aircraft and Helicopters flying in the congested airspace. Hence, it is essential to keep a good look out, listening out watch and make blind calls at regular intervals to avoid any mid air collision. Give a call before Takeoff and Landing at helipads regardless of the availability of ground control.
- Kindly keep in mind that there might be aircraft and helicopters entering your area of operations from bases other than the base of your operations and you may not know about their movement. Therefore, it is all the more essential to listen out on RT and make blind calls at regular intervals.
- Prepare and plan well for the hectic flying Activity.
- Ensure that you have latest Jeppesson, ILS, VOR charts, maps of the entire area of operations and GPS coordinates of the airports, helipads.
- Ensure that the GPS is serviceable and reliable and it is good practice to carry a hand held GPS which can come handy in the event of main GPS becoming unserviceable.
- Get to know about the weather Hazards in the area of your operations. Ensure that you get proper Weather briefing from the Met Department, IMD and other websites and closely monitor the changes in weather conditions. Dust storms, thunderstorms are some of the weather hazards during the forthcoming electioneering months.
- Before undertaking the Sortie, ensure that you have correct coordinates of the Helipad/Airport, confirm the same from Google Earth and study the en route terrain and obstructions around the helipad. Check, recheck and double check the coordinates and make sure that you feed them correctly on your GPS.
- Have proper liaison with the ground personal manning the helipad and brief them to ensure that the helipad surface is hard, level and freer of dust. Sprinkling of the water close to the landing and takeoff time is essential requirement.
- Security and crowd control is a major area of concern at the Helipads and the ground personnel manning the helipads should be briefed about them with emphasis.
- During landing and takeoff, keep a good look out for lose flying objects like plastic bags, lungis, dhotis, head covers, ropes and strings etc. Don’t take these aspects lightly since there have been number of accidents due to these hazards.
- Remember only VFR operations are permitted to and from the helipads. Day flying is 20 minutes before sun rise and 20 minutes after sun set. Always plan to land at an airfield 0:30 hrs before sunset just to cater for any last minute delays so that you land at least by 20 mts after sunset.
- Fuel planning is very crucial and ensures that your refueling party is properly briefed and their movement is well co ordinate and monitored. Hand held GPS with the refueling /ground party can be very useful in confirming and updating the GPS co ordinates. Make use of it.
- Take due precautions before and during refueling. Remember fuel is life.
- Have an umbrella, drinking water, soft drinks, reading material and light snacks on board which may come handy at helipads while waiting.
- Pilot and Maintenance personnel fatigue is a major concern during the hectic election flying day in and day out. Remember that stressed pilots and maintenance crew may lead to compromise on safety of the operations Proper sleep at Hotel/Guest house, adequate rest, refreshment facilities at helipads, help of a dispatcher/coordinator/Ops manager in undertaking various co ordination activities for the operations, Maintenance and provisioning of reliable lap tops, internet and reliable communication facilities for the pilots and ground personnel can be of great help in reducing pilot fatigue.
- Kindly do not exceed FDTL, FTL and do not get pressurized to undertake flying in case of unfavorable weather conditions or in violation of DGCA rules, regulations.
- Election Commission and DGCA officials are expected to be very pro active in carrying out surprise and random checks and any violation will be viewed very seriously. Kindly be extra careful. Remember that you are under close scrutiny during election flying.
- Ensure that no unauthorized items are carried on board the aircraft or Helicopter. Carry out proper check of baggage and look out for hidden dangerous goods.
- Firearms and large cash unless specifically authorized are not permitted to be carried on board the aircraft or helicopter. Kindly check on the amount of cash that can be carried from the Election Officials in your area.
- Please do not succumb to commercial, political or VIP pressures and undertake flying in violation of the rules regulations. Remember the past accidents and consequent loss of lives and machines which resulted due to the pilots succumbing to these pressures.
- Politely but firmly, advise the concerned people if a sortie is likely to be in violation of the rules, regulations.
- Kindly carry Air safety Circular 09/2013 on board the helicopter which permits pre cautionary landing at any suitable place or at an airfield even after its watch hours in case you encounter adverse weather and are unable to proceed to your destination or alternate.
- Ensure that you have the Emergency Response Plan of your company, telephone numbers of the Officials from DGCA Air Safety, Police, District Administration, ATC and hospitals in the area of your operations.
- Proper Load and trim sheet is to be prepared before each sortie and records maintained. Do not overload or stress your machines.
- Maintain a proper record of your flying and no efforts should be made to alter the records to be within FDTL or FTL limits since if it comes to the notice of the regulator or the election officials, you can be in serious trouble.
- Please know about the Prohibited, Restricted and Danger areas for flying and do not violate them.
- Written Permission should be obtained for landing clearance at Helipads and copy of the same should be available with the pilot during flying. No verbal clearance should be accepted.
- Ensure proper briefing of passengers which is a legal requirement. Make sure that no passenger or the onlookers get into the tail rotor. Brief Ground support personnel, Co pilot, AME, Technician etc for securing the tail rotor.
- Always maintain your route safety altitude. While flying below one thousand feet in the plains, keep a very sharp look out for pylons, towers, HT Cables, ropeways and tall structures.
- With the onset of summer season, bird activity in the altitude bands where helicopters usually fly (around 2000 Ft AGL), increases. Birds are serious hazards and maintain a sharp look out for them.
- In number of states, the clearance for landing permission etc is given in local language. Kindly ensure that you have interpreter’s services in case the pilots are not familiar with local language.
- Pilots must have good rapport and interaction with the maintenance and ground support personnel.
- Remember that your maintenance and ground support personnel will also be fatigued and may miss out on certain checks. In addition, commercial/task pressures may tempt them to take short cuts. Be aware of this fact and be meticulous in your checks and follow the SOP,s religiously.
- Maintenance personnel must take special care of the maintenance activities since machines are subjected to intensive flying and dusty environments.
- Do not ignore minor leaks, fluctuations, vibrations and never exceed the limitations laid down. Flying partially serviceable machines is to be avoided as far as possible.