Safety Guidelines- Helicopter Operations in Snow Bound Areas with Particular Emphasis On Operations Ex Srinagar

Before Flight.

1. Familiarise yourself with the Srinagar Airport, its lay out, frequencies, Nav Aids, Radar, Restricted, Prohibited and Danger Areas.

2. Specific SOP for operations from Srinagar Airport, with particular emphasis on type of take-off and approaches, to be carried out, keeping in mind the threat of small arms fire, must be known and practiced.

3. Get to know the routes to the various Helipads and know the location of prohibited, restricted, danger and Security Threat Areas and avoid them.

4. Plan and prepare thoroughly for the flight with particular emphasis on weather, terrain, minimum enroute altitude, and safe altitude, minimum off route altitude.

5.  SOP for the helipads should be known and followed meticulously.

6. Have proper briefing between the crew members before Flight.

7. Duties and responsibilities of the Pilot and Co Pilot must be clearly defined particularly during contingency like bad weather, poor visibility, blowing snow leading to white out, snow blindness.

8. Disorientation, illusions and consequent loss of Situation awareness can occur while operating in snow bound areas. Watch out.

9. Be thorough about Emergency procedures and revise critical emergencies before flight so that both the pilot and co-pilot are aware of emergency actions.

10. Prepare your maps as per routing and study the terrain.

11. The Briefing of the Ground personnel manning the Helipads and the briefing of passengers is of paramount importance.

12. Special care should be taken during boarding and de boarding of passengers while rotors are running to ensure that the passengers do not get into tail or main rotor.

13.  All the boarding and de boarding is done between 10 and 2, O Clock position which can be monitored by Pilots.

14. During boarding and de boarding, the passenger should bend down so that there is safe clearance between the rotors and passengers.

15. The Ground staff manning the helipad should be briefed accordingly to ensure strict compliance of the instructions.

16. The passenger should be briefed about dos and don’ts and the position they should take in the event of force landing.

17. Ground staff/Pilots should ensure that passenger do not carry any dangerous goods by mistake or deliberately.

18. Ensure that there are no loose clothing items on the body of the passengers and ground personnel which can fly off and get into the rotors.

19. Ground personnel must be briefed on this aspect and there should be no loose articles which can fly off during approach, hover, landing and rotors running in and around the vicinity of the Helipad.

20. The ground staff manning the helipad should be properly briefed to make sure that there is no loose snow on the helipad and also in short final area and take off area.

21. Pilots should interact with AME, Technician to ensure that the servicing, maintenance and DI is done properly.

22. Due to extreme cold Temperatures, there may be a physical limitation or tendency on the part of maintenance crew to take short cuts or miss out on some checks.

23. Inadequate lights for servicing and maintenance work particularly during poor visibility conditions may result in maintenance crew missing out on some leaks or cracks etc. They need to be very careful.

24. Heavy winter clothing may restrict the movement of hands and feet of the pilots and maintenance personnel leading to safety compromise on checks and maintenance. Be aware.

25. Chances of maintenance personnel leaving tools inadvertently in the ENGINE, GEAR BOX COMPARTMENT ETC cannot be ruled out particularly during very low temperature and adverse weather conditions. This needs due attention.

26. During maintenance and external checks, chances of pilots, maintenance personnel slipping due to slippery surface caused by frost, snow and Ice. Be cautious.

27. Sometimes the pilot’s feet may slip on the rudder pedals because of the snow, ice on the shoe bottom. Take adequate precautions.

28. Carry out proper external, internal checks.

Check the serviceability of demister, pitot heat and use as required.

29. Carry out proper fuel and load planning keeping various contingencies in mind.

30. Carry out proper risk assessment keeping in mind the limitation of Pilot, Helicopter, weather and terrain and decide whether to undertake the flight or continue the flight.

During Flight.

30. Follow the SOP Route.

31. Keep a close watch on weather and the terrain.

32. Respect the weather and read the signs of deterioration of the weather.

33. Make a decision in time to return or divert to protected and safe areas.

34. With snow fall, the perspective of the terrain changes and one may not be able to orientate with the terrain and may feel unsure of position. Be careful and follow correct directions as per map reading.

35. Know the correct valley directions on map and GPS lest you enter wrong valley. Check, recheck and double check to ensure that you are in correct valley.

36. Minimum height clearance for clearing the peaks, ridges, passes is 1000 ft. and always cross them at 45 degree angle to enable you to turn into valley in case of down draft

36. Calculate your density altitude and power required and available and margin of power.

37. High elevation, high all up weight and tail winds are dangerous combination.

38. Approach, Landing and Take-off are very critical in snow bound areas since margin of safety are low due to high task requirement. Hence, it is essential for both the pilots to be very alert, vigilant and situationally aware.

39. If required carry out high and low recce of the helipad to ascertain surface conditions, obstructions.

40. Check that the surface of the helipad is prepared for landing and chances of blowing snow are minimum.

41. Carry out approach as per SOP ensuring correct perspective, height, and speed combination.

42. Keep in mind the aspect of vortex ring and loss of tail rotor effectiveness.

43. Look out for any blowing snow, loose articles.

44. If the risk of snow blowing is high, do not land at the helipad.

45. If snow blowing causes degradation in visibility and the pilot feels uncomfortable, a go around should be initiated in time.

46. However, if the blowing snow is not very heavy and the Pilot is able to see the surface of the helipad, then continue to descend to touch down, without coming to hover.

47. Never make the mistake of hovering over loose snow.

48. Generally with experience, it has been found that the surface area below the helicopter is visible when the snow is blowing since it blows away from the helicopter and the area below the hull is visible. However, it may not always be true due to erratic strong wind conditions.

49. If uncomfortable any time, then raise collective, climb attitude, climb speed and power and climb away with wings level monitoring positive climb and helicopter gaining altitude.

50. Never hover on the loose snow hoping that it will blow away unless you are very sure. You might get in the snow bowl and loose orientation.

51. Any time unstable during approach or unsure, go round in time.

52. Once on the helipad, firmly on ground, lower the collective gently and ensure that the helicopter does not tilt in any direction and skids do not sink beyond permissible limits.

53. During the touch down and lift off, guard against Dynamic Roll Over which can happen if one skid sinks in the loose snow more than the other causing the helicopter to tilt.

54. Landing onto sloping helipad and or in strong cross wind conditions can also lead to Dynamic Roll Over.

55. Sometime, the skids may freeze on ground due to snow which may cause difficulty during pick up. Keep this factor in mind and exercise caution.

56. Hover and initial take off from prepared surface of the helipad may pose no problem immediately but as the helicopter moves out of the helipad during take-off, the loose snow may start blowing and with snow all around, in the absence of any feature, the chances of disorientation and white out are high.

57. This is a critical phase and both pilots should be alert, vigilant and make sure that the helicopter is in proper climb attitude, climb power, speed and altimeter VSI are showing positive climb.

58. In case of rising terrain, it becomes much more important to ensure positive climb.

59. Be careful during turns, keep a close watch on angle of bank, speed and positive climb. During turns over snow, one may feel disorientated. Be careful.

60. Snow blindness and white out are main hazards while operating in snow bound areas.

61. Chances of disorientation are high in snow bound areas due to lack of any features or pin points.

62. In case of bad weather, poor visibility and  white out conditions which may lead to  disorientation, the pilot flying should get onto instruments, should fly on basic instruments ,that is height,speed,direction and must not try to look outside while flying on instruments.

63.The Co Pilot should monitor outside visual references, his own instruments, Pilots instruments, compare both the instruments and correct the Pilot flying if any errors are committed by him.

64. Chances of the Pilot flying getting fixated on one instrument are high and both the Pilot flying and Co-Pilot should be aware of this aspect and pilot flying should scan the instruments and co-pilot should  correct  the Pilot flying if he is committing any error.

65. Both the pilots should be alert, vigilant and situationally aware at all time.

66. It is essential to have good CRM and remember the Golden Rule in Aviation that is AVIATE-NAVIGATE AND COMMUNICATE.

67. Priority should always be on controlling the helicopter and both the pilots should not get distracted due to any reason and one pilot should always be on controls and flying.

68. Always keep a safe get away from bad weather in mind and decide in time to return or divert without hoping for better luck thinking that weather ahead may improve.

69. Don’t get misled by the weather report given by ground staff who may mislead you due to their vested interest in getting the passengers airlifted to their destination.

70. The area of operations is in close proximity of the hostile border.

71. Sometime the GPS signals may be jammed by enemy or may be lost due to other reasons.

72. Be prepared to shift to map reading.

73. In any case, one should be always prepare the maps and do map reading regardless of the assistance of GPS.

74. The operations being very close to the border, it becomes very essential to map read in conjunction with GPS inputs and be very alert and vigilant lest one strays or go close  to enemy territory.

75. Proper crew coordination is very essential particularly during approach, landing and take-off, go around operations.

76. Check recheck and double check the altimeter setting and cross check with Radio altimeter.

77. Similarly check, recheck and double check the Coordinates fed in the GPS.

78. Do not follow GPS blindly and map read to cross check.

79. Option of precautionary Landing in case unable to continue due bad weather must be exercised with due caution since except security protected areas, any suitable landing site out of security cordon may not be safe.

80. Always know the distance and location of security protected helipads, airfields in mind so that you can proceed to these places if required in emergency.

81. The Pitot heat and demister should be serviceable and used when required and switched off when not required.

82. Move controls gently from time to time while flying to ensure that the pitch changing arms do not get frozen.

Miscellaneous Points.

83.Visit the ATC and get fully familiar with Srinagar Airport, Circuit area, Restricted, Prohibited and Danger areas, frequencies,Nav Aids, Radar frequency etc.

84. Get to know the frequencies in which the aircraft, helicopters are operating in the valley as well as enroute helipads.

85. Air Traffic is likely to be quite dense with Air Force fighters, transport and helicopters in addition to Army, State Govt and civil helicopters operating in the valley.

86. Get to know the SOP followed by Military and civil pilots for operations.

87. Give blind calls wherever required as per SOP.

88. Know your Emergency Response Plans and action to be taken in emergency or precautionary, Force Landing.

89. Never take chance with the weather, serviceability of the helicopter and security.

90. No mission is so important that it cannot be undertaken at other time or next day.

91. Fly professionally and safely.

92. No heroics or macho attitude.

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