Avoiding Wire Strikes

okikuma

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Here's a great article from Vertical Magazine concerning avoiding wire strikes.

Wayne

http://www.verticalmag.com/features/features_article/bird-on-a-wire.html
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Bird on a Wire
2012-01-06 15:08:39
Elan Head

Bob Feerst and the professionals at Utilities Aviation Specialists have trained more than 23,000 flight crewmembers in wire-strike avoidance, but there are still many more flight crews who could benefit from their valuable, often-lifesaving training.

Avoiding wire strikes shouldnt be a question of luck.Simple, effective strategies can help keep pilots and their passengers safe in the wire environment.

Avoiding wire strikes shouldnt be a question of luck.Simple, effective strategies can help keep pilots and their passengers safe in the wire environment.

In 2007, after working as a flight instructor for a year, I took a cherry-drying job in Washington state (see p.144, Vertical, Feb-Mar 2009). The job required me to hover low-level over cherry orchards after it rained, in close proximity to powerlines and other obstructions. The experience was an eye-opener in many ways, but one thing it particularly drove home for me was how much I did not know about operating around wires.

Although I knew that wire strikes were the leading cause of fatal helicopter accidents, all that I had learned about wire-strike avoidance up to that point could have been summed up in two sentences: 1) whenever possible, always fly at 500 feet above ground level or higher; and 2) cross powerlines over the towers, rather than over the wires. For obvious reasons, both tips were of limited usefulness in my new environment, and I was forced to think up ad-hoc strategies for avoiding wire strikes. I completed the season safely, but I suspected that part of this was due to good luck.

This summer, I finally had the opportunity to receive some wire-strike-avoidance training when the province of Ontarios power transmission company, Hydro One, allowed me to sit in on a course taught by Bob Feerst of Utilities Aviation Specialists (UAS). There, I learned that wires are even more hazardous than most pilots suspect, but also that there are simple, effective strategies for operating safely in the wire environment strategies that dont rely on luck. As Feerst put it: There is a science to this. If any element of you getting home at the end of the day is based on luck, youre at high risk.

Teaching From Experience
Many helicopter pilots are familiar with Feersts name through the Helicopter Association International; for many years, Feerst has taught a one-day course on flying in the wire environment at HAIs annual Heli-Expo convention and trade show. A journeyman lineman/line worker and commercial helicopter and fixed-wing pilot, Feerst combines well over 35 years of aviation experience and over 30 years of operating in the gas and electric utility industry. He is an associate staff member with the United States Department of Transportations Transportation Safety Institute (TSI), and an instructor for TSIs advanced rotorcraft accident investigation course. He is also the owner of UAS, which offers a number of specialized training courses, in addition to providing safety audits, implementation of safety management systems, powerline project management and a variety of consulting services.

Feerst began teaching an in-house version of his wire-strike-avoidance ground course in 1985, when he worked for the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (now better known as NIPSCO). He gave a public version of the course for the first time in 1988, and, according to him, the popularity of the training has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. Today, Feerst and his colleagues at UAS offer different versions of the course for student pilots and helicopter emergency medical service crews, in addition to courses targeted specifically at utility flight crews. Feerst estimates that more than 23,000 flight crewmembers in a variety of sectors have gone through some version of the wire-strike training since 1988, and many power companies have made the course mandatory for both their pilots and their line workers, who routinely fly as crewmembers.

Hydro One has brought Feerst and his course to Ontario several times now. Bob brings a vast amount of experience, said Hydro One chief pilot John Bosomworth, noting that Hydro One appreciates Feersts perspective as a pilot, but especially as a line worker (indeed, at the course I attended there were significantly more line workers than pilots in attendance). Bosomworth continued, Its hard to benchmark the value that you get from [the course], because you never know when you might have prevented an accident. Nevertheless, he said Hydro One fully supports the training and expects to bring Feerst back in the future.

Feersts complete utility flight operations course spans two days, and everything he teaches in those two days is, he told me, flight-critical information. To make the training accessible to a wider audience, however, he has boiled down the essentials into a one-day program, such as the one he teaches at Heli-Expo and the one I attended in Barrie, Ont. Although its not comprehensive, this one-day course contains enough information to dramatically improve flight crew awareness and potentially save lives. It does contain lifesaving information, Feerst said of the one-day course. Ive investigated almost 300 of these [wire-strike] accidents, and the big tragedy of these accidents is that theyre preventable.

Thinking Like a Wire
So, what is the secret to staying alive in the wire environment? Essentially, it boils down to what flight safety always boils down to: situational awareness. Developing and maintaining situational awareness throughout the patrol is the key to safe low-level operations, emphasized Feerst. However, this situational awareness is greatly enhanced by understanding specific details about the wire environment details that Feerst teaches in his course.

One point that Feerst stresses is that wire should not be thought of as a visible hazard. Pilots are notorious for thinking theyll see the wire in time to avoid it, he said. But wire is not always visible. You have got to start thinking about wire as an invisible hazard. The visibility of wire is affected by such diverse factors as its size and alloy, the background and the light angle: a wire that is perfectly visible from one direction may be completely invisible 180 degrees out. For this reason, a full, 360-degree, high reconnaissance is a good start in assessing a landing or low-level working zone, although that recon demands a flight crews full attention, as wire can pass into and out of view in a matter of seconds.

When wire is invisible, savvy flight crews can often predict its presence by understanding how powerlines are constructed. For example, while the sagging conductors on a high-voltage power transmission line may be easy to see, the thinner static wires that run above them (sometimes hundreds of feet above them) are much more difficult to spot but theyre there. This is one reason why pilots are encouraged to cross transmission lines above the structures rather than at mid-span, although even here theres a possible gotcha: Feerst cautioned that broken static lines can sometimes float in the wind above the tops of transmission structures.

Observing hardware such as insulators can also help flight crews predict wire patterns. Long before the wire itself is visible, its possible to identify a turn in a powerline including a turn across ones flight path by noting the orientation of the powerlines insulators. Insulators point in the direction the wire is going, explained Feerst. Identifying such turns can also help you anticipate hard-to-see guy wires, since guys are used where there is tension on the line. (For me, Feersts tips about using hardware to forecast wire were nothing short of a revelation I realized Id spent my entire life looking at powerlines without actually seeing them. Now, I notice insulators and guy wires everywhere I go.)

Feerst stressed that keeping track of wire in ones operating environment is more of a mental exercise than a visual one. Our short-term memory works against us most of the time in the wire environment, he said. In other words, we may mentally note a wire, then quickly forget about it one reason why many wire strikes involve wires that the pilots were actually aware of. Feerst recommended what he called the ag pilots mantra: Theres the house, wheres the wire? Theres one pole, wheres the other? Constantly pushing the idea of wire back into ones short-term memory is the best way to keep track of it.

Wire-strike accidents do not happen only to inexperienced pilots: in fact, said Feerst, the majority of helicopter pilots who are involved in such accidents have at least 5,000 hours of flight time. Moreover, most of these accidents occur during daylight hours, often in good weather. This stuff is not only preventable, its easily preventable, said Feerst. And, when it comes to preventing wire-strike accidents, a little knowledge will get you farther than
a whole lot of luck.

Elan Head is an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument helicopter ratings. She holds commercial helicopter licenses in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and is also an award-winning journalist who has written for a diverse array of magazines and newspapers since the late-1990s.
 

HydroGyroNut

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Anyone aware of any technology that allows a wire in your direction of flight to light up in your visor? Would be the best gift to us all. Like sonar used to pick up even small objects from the ocean floor. This similar technology could be programmed to pick up wires,long and thin stuff and be converted to some electrical signal in the form of a light showing the wire. It should be possible, but expensive to develop. I hope someone out there eventually develops a useful tool cuz i love flying low over water . Luckily, have vast expanses of bay and Gulf of Mexico with no wire hazards. Sometimes, I have had the urge to fly low over rivers but why risk it? I have enough play ground as it, but we all adventurous to some degree and all end up flying in unchartered territory at some point..Please be careful.
 

cburg

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Still flying your trike or did you sell it? Your new rig is sweeeet!

Anyone aware of any technology that allows a wire in your direction of flight to light up in your visor? Would be the best gift to us all. Like sonar used to pick up even small objects from the ocean floor. This similar technology could be programmed to pick up wires,long and thin stuff and be converted to some electrical signal in the form of a light showing the wire. It should be possible, but expensive to develop. I hope someone out there eventually develops a useful tool cuz i love flying low over water . Luckily, have vast expanses of bay and Gulf of Mexico with no wire hazards. Sometimes, I have had the urge to fly low over rivers but why risk it? I have enough play ground as it, but we all adventurous to some degree and all end up flying in unchartered territory at some point..Please be careful.
 

XXavier

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Those power lines must radiate very long radio waves. In fact, normal car radios give a 'buzz' sometimes, when passing under the wires. Wouldn't be possible to build some sort of passive detector that could alert the pilot of the proximity of a power line?
 

XXavier

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Dmorris

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Somerset Kentucky
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I currently own an IFR Carbon Cub FX3. This is my 3rd Carbon Cub. Owned a Xenon, 2 TAF 2000's.
Total Flight Time
Thousands and adding every week!
The question that everyone will want to know is how much? I found this article dated February 14, 2014. The price in this article is $12,313.00.

http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-n...improves-powerline-detection-tool-helicopters

With that said I just got off the phone with Safe Flight. The lady I talked to said the person I need to talk to is not in but would be anxious to talk to me about the small aircraft market. He's supposed to call me Monday.
 

Arnie Madsen

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Met Towers (Meteorological towers) have turned out to be one of the new hazards of aviation

They are set up at random to measure windspeeds in anticipation of building wind farms

They are not marked , they are built just under 200 feet to avoid regulations

Check the video in this article , a crop duster discusses this new hazard

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-...minal-or-insane-Which-one-are-you-Vince-Cable
 
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