PRECAUTIONS- MONSOON FLYING
PRECAUTIONS- MONSOON FLYING
- Monsoons are expected to hit Kerala coast by 30 May and by 29 Jun, hopefully, whole country would be under monsoon spell. In addition to the cooling of temperatures, most needed relief to the agriculturist and the problem of water shortage diminishing, monsoons pose number of hazards to the aviators?
- Monsoons are associated with heavy rain, strong gusty winds, strong up and down drafts, squalls, poor visibility, low clouds, lightning, hailstorms, thunderstorms and icing etc.
- During monsoon months, number of accidents have taken place in our country.
- Loss of visual reference, disorientation/Visual Illusions, colliding with static obstructions, Failure to go around in the event of un stablised approach or diverting in time and failure to land at a suitable place in no go situation in case of Helicopters(DGCA Air Safety Circular 09 /2013) have been some of the main causes of accidents during monsoon months.
- Personal ego, overconfidence, pressure to undertake the task and get homeitis have been some of the contributory factors towards occurrence of accidents.
- It is prudent to get to know about the monsoon hazards and precautions to be taken lest we fall prey to these and add to the accident statistics.
- Aviation Safety Management Society of India (ASMSI) is conscious of the fact that the Pilots and Engineers manning Fixed Wing and Helicopter fleet are highly experienced, knowledgeable, professional and concerned about the flight safety. Nevertheless, ASMSI, would like to refresh the memory and cover important aspects, which needs to be kept in mind during monsoon flying. These are covered in succeeding paragraphs:-
- Brush up your knowledge about loss of Situational Awareness, Spatial Disorientation, prevention of CFIT, ALAR Kit. Be knowledgeable about use of Weather Radar and onboard Nav and Landing Aids. It is advised to go through DGCA CAR on All Weather Ops, Flight Safety Foundation/DGCA ALAR Tool Kit, DGCA Ops Circular 01/2013 on Missed Approach, User Guide Book of Weather Radar and Air Safety Circular 09/2013 on Precautionary Landing for Helicopter Pilots.
- Flying during monsoons in Northeastern states, Western Ghats, Coastal areas, hilly areas demands additional alertness on part of the aircrew.
- Early mornings, afternoons are more likely to have thunderstorms. Keep this aspect in mind.
- Normally adverse phase of thunderstorms lasts around 30 Mts to 1 Hour but in the case of regenerating thunderstorms it may continue for hours.
- Knowledge of terrain is very vital particularly during monsoons and adverse Wx Conditions. Study the terrain thoroughly and have full knowledge about the Minimum Enroute Altitude, Minimum Safe Altitude, MORA and grid MORA.
- Flying in the hills is most dangerous during monsoons and great care must be exercised.
- Offshore flying is very demanding during monsoons. Exercise special caution and take no chances with weather particularly during monsoons which are quite severe in the areas of offshore operations.
- Be current in instrument flying/simulator flying and know the limitation of Aircraft/Helicopter and your own limitations.
- Ensure serviceability of your weather radar, wind screen wipers, nav aids, communication equipment, Radio Altimeter, ELT, flying instruments, nav and flashing beacons etc.
- It is very essential to plan the flight meticulously keeping in mind the weather conditions, availability of diversionary airfields. On number of occasions due to widespread thunderstorms; it may not be possible to reach your destination and even the diversionary airfield/helipad.
- Carry out thorough preflight briefing, covering the aspect of CRM,terrain awareness, weather conditions and contingency plans in case of adverse weather.
(g) Do not get pressurized for any reason and take no chances with weather. Don’t hesitate to say NO regardless of pressures. No show off, false sense of pride, ego, macho attitude. Number of aircrew have lost their lives while taking chance with weather.
(h) Never fly VFR in IFR conditions. Be vigilant while transiting from VFR to IFR and from IFR to VFR.
(h) As far as possible avoid bad weather areas using weather radars and or visual clues. If get caught unintentionally in bad weather, then do not press on. Return to your base, divert and if unable, then find a suitable place and land (Helicopters). Don’t worry about the consequences of unplanned landing since Air Safety Circular 09 of 2013 permits landing by helicopter in such contingencies.
(j) Most of the flying by helicopters is VFR. Ensure that flying is undertaken with ground contact. Keep a very sharp look out for obstructions like pylons, cables, TV towers, Communication poles/towers, high rise buildings, tall trees, hills, high ground etc. If forced to descend low due to clouds then reduce speed and keep a sharp look out for these obstructions. If unable to maintain safe height, then it is better to land at suitable place then continue at low heights in poor visibility.
(k) It is suggested to set personal minima’s for yourself in terms of the height to which to descend in order to remain below clouds and when you should make a decision to divert/carry out precautionary landing.
(l) Maintain your route safety altitude and make full use of weather radars (if you are lucky to have it) for keeping a track on weather developments.
(m) Trust your instruments and do not look outside while flying on instruments. Have good CRM in the cockpit. Remember the phenomenon of spatial disorientation and apply the knowledge about it intelligently.
(q) With weather, no amount of experience or heroism works. Never be overconfident, respect weather and prepare well for your sortie. Do not press on regardless of weather even if you are highly experienced.
® If you are fortunate to have Weather radar on your Aircraft/Helicopter, learn how to use it optimally. Number of accidents have occurred due to lack of weather radar related knowledge of the pilots.
(s) Most of the accidents during bad weather, occur during approach and landing. As far as possible, carry out ILS approach, if available. Otherwise, Continuous Descent Final Approach (CDFA) in case of Non Precision Approach. Chances of accidents in Non Precision Approaches are 5 times more than during ILS approaches.
(t) Fixed Wing pilots in particular to remember the landing techniques on wet, contaminated runways, be familiar with risk of hydroplaning, cross wind landing Techniques, essential aspects of stabilized approach, use of reverse thrust,spoilers and should never hesitate to go around if situation demands.
(u) Never hesitate to go around or divert if the situation demands. Follow the SOP meticulously. Take the decision to divert in time before it is too late.
(s) Rain Water and high humidity during monsoons have adverse effects on electronics equipment. Ensure protection by parking inside hangars. Use suitable covers when parking in the Open.
(t) Ensure that the Aircraft/Helicopter is properly sealed when parked. Danger of reptiles entering the Ac/helicopter are high during monsoons due flooding.
(u) Birds are known to make nest in the areas of air intakes, exhaust and other available space on Aircraft/Helicopters even with in a very short duration. Carry out proper externals.
(v) Make sure that soft parts of the Aircraft/Helicopter like stabilizers/antennas etc are covered while parked with proper covers to prevent damage due to hail storms.
(w) Proper lashing of Aircraft/Helicopters is essential to prevent damage due to strong gusty wind conditions.
(x) Ensure the bonding of Aircraft/Helicopter is intact to prevent lightning strikes.
(y) Take great care during refueling lest water enters fuel tanks. Proper bonding during refueling needs no emphasis.
(z) Kuchcha/grassy landing surface becomes soggy during rains. Ensure due caution during landing,parking. Wheels/skids getting stuck on wet surface may lead to dynamic roll over conditions. Skidding while fast taxying/turning is expected on wet surfaces. Exercise caution
(aa) Ensure that the Aircraft/Helicopter are not parked in low lying areas which are prone to flooding, water logging specially in high rain density areas like Mumbai etc.
(bb) AMEs, Technicians to exercise due caution while servicing the Aircraft/Helicopter since chances of slipping are high due to wet surfaces.
(cc) Carry out special checks on parts/equipment which are likely to get affected due to rain water. Rusting of the parts is another hazard.
Although efforts have been made to include all the aspects related to monsoon flying yet there may be some points which might have been missed out. Operators, supervisors, aircrew, maintenance staff are requested to include those which have been missed out or particularly applicable in their area of operations. Let us all involve ourselves to ensure safe flying during monsoons.
All the best and happy landings.