PRECAUTIONS DISASTER RELIEF FLYING

Helicopter Pilots from Civil and Military did a great job under extremely trying conditions in reaching out to the victims of Disaster in Uttrakhand. It was the first time in the history of Civil Helicopters when such a large number of Civil helicopters took part in relief operations along with almost 40 plus helicopters from Air Force and Army. Such a large number of Helicopters and even some aircraft flying in such restricted area demanded very high level of coordination and control for safe and efficient air space management. The high standards of professionalism and keen sense of involvement displayed by Helicopter Pilots towards aid to the disaster victims, will always be written in Golden Letters in the History.

Although most of the civil helicopter pilots are from military background and are highly experienced and knowledgeable with good experience in the conduct of disaster relief flying, yet there is a need to refresh our memory about certain precautions to be taken during these operations. ASMSI is concerned about your safety and has prepared the list of some precautions which are as follows:-

  1. Although Disaster relief flying is very hectic but satisfying activity with emotional involvement of the individual pilots yet we should not forget that safety is of paramount importance.
  2. You should have good knowledge of the terrain and plan your flights well.
  3. Keep in mind that there are large number of helicopters and even some aircraft flying in the area of operations which is highly congested.
  4. Ensure that you are aware about the R/T channel on which other helicopters are flying and give mandatory R/T calls, listen out on R/T and keep a very good look out.
  5. Liaise with Air Force, Army, Civil Helicopters, know their movement and follow the SOP of entering and flying in the valley with particular reference to keeping to the right/left side of the valley for entry and exit and maintenance of even/odd height/altitiude both ways as per SOP.
  6. In bad weather, make sure that you communicate your altitude as often as possible particularly in the blind corner areas and keep a very good look out.
  7. Remember that weather changes very rapidly in the hills particularly during monsoon months. Keep a sharp look out for weather developments and take timely action and decision.
  8. Do not let emotions/compassion get the better of your professionalism. Keep a check on your fuel and load. Do not succumb to any kind of pressure including your emotions/compassion to compromise on safety by overloading.
  9. Please remember that all over the world, largest number of accidents have occurred during mercy missions. Keep this aspect in mind and make sure that you are well prepared and extremely cautious.
  10. Most of the helipads are make shift and do not meet the safety requirement. Surface conditions may be bad with extreme slopes, obstructions close by and loose flying objects. Be extremely careful during approach, landing and takeoff. Don’t forget to give R/T calls on approach and take off.
  11. Crowd control at the helipads is extremely difficult and a very weak area. Victims are desperate to be evacuated and can go to any length to get into the helicopter. Also there is a risk of passengers getting into tail rotor or even main rotor particularly during sloppy helipads landings or in windy/gusty conditions. Ensure necessary precautions.
  12. Make sure that the passengers are briefed if possible and monitor their activities inside the helicopter so that they remain away from flying controls, jettison levers
  13. Hills and bad weather are worst combination and do not take chances with the weather. If get caught in a situation where it is not possible to continue, then find a place and land. DGCA circular 09/2013 permits precautionary landing in such an eventuality.
  14. Updrafts on wind ward side and downdraft on the leeward side can be expected. Winds may change rapidly in the valleys and this aspect needs to be kept in mind. Have adequate safety margin while crossing ridges.
  15. Never enter clouds in the hills. Know the factors leading to spatial disorientation and loss of situational awareness. Plan for any contingency.
  16. Plan to clear the hills at least 0:30 Hrs before sunset. In the hills it becomes dark earlier than plains.
  17. Most of the makeshift helipads may not have windsock. Make use of smoke or sway of trees or your GPS to ensure that you do not land into tailwind.
  18. Remember the conditions for Vortex ring state, Dynamic Roll Over, Loss of tail rotor effectiveness and ground resonance. During your operations, it is very likely that you may get into any of these situations with catastrophic results.
  19. Congested parking and simultaneous operation of more than one helicopter on same helipad may lead to ground accidents and blade sailing. Keep in mind this aspect. Stay at a comfortable distance from IAF MI -17 and MI- 26 and watch out for their downwash which can be dangerous.
  20. Don’t be in a hurry which is almost inevitable in such operating conditions. Of course be smart and intelligent without making undue haste.
  21. Take due precautions during refueling and avoid any ground accident. Proper check of the fuel for water and sediments is essentia Refueling during rain should be avoided or due precautions taken to avoid water entering in the fuel tanks.
  22. AME’s and technicians have to be very meticulous during FFS, LFS and carry out proper maintenance. Make sure that there is adequate light for night or poor visibility condition during maintenance.
  23. Fuel and maintenance planning is very vital and do not get caught into awkward situations.
  24. Carry your SAR kit and have some emergency rations and water on board for any contingency.
  25. Remember that unlike military pilots, Civilian pilots do not have that kind of flexibility of operations and are governed by DGCA CAR’S for safe operations.
  26. There is no separate DGCA CAR on Disaster Relief Operations and as such normal operation rules/ regulations apply which is safety oriented. So kindly exercise discretion and operate very carefully.
  27. Fatigue is a major factor which can adversely affect flying and Aeronautical Decision Making. Please do not exceed FDTL/FTL and take adequate rest and be very careful.
  28. CRM is of vital significance and make sure that there is full cooperation, support and understanding among the crew members including AME’s, Technicians, Ops Staff and helpers.
  29. Wishing you all a very satisfying Disaster Relief Flying and Many Many Happy Landings.
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