Safety Advisories

 

        Safety Aspects – Flying During Winters.

 

  • (a) Fog is a major flight safety hazard during winter months particularly in Northern, Eastern and to some extent in western India. Awareness about the phenomenon of fog is very essential for the pilots in particular. Pilots must be aware about the timings, extent, duration and severity of fog. Formation of fog and clearing of weather is very unpredictable. Although most of the time the met forecast is reasonably accurate yet there are many instances when pilots have got caught in very poor visibility conditions. Hence, it is very important for all operators to keep the hazards of winter flying in mind while planning flying.
  • (b) All the pilots should be current in instrument flying and should have undergone Ow Visibility Operations Training as per DGCA CAR.
  • (c) Thorough weather briefing must be obtained before undertaking any flying. Met office and internet are the sources which should be complemented with the experience of operating in particular area or region. Knowledge of typical weather phenomenon during winters will be of paramount importance.
  • (d) As far as possible, avoid flying during the early morning and late evening hours. Most of the times, the fog thickens at sunrise and may last for long hours before clearing or may not even clear for days.
  • e) Special precautions need to be taken while flying during night, dawn/ dusk. Night flying during winters should be undertaken with extra caution since poor visibility during night flying is a serious hazard.
  • (f) Low clouds which form as the fog is dissipating can be a serious hazard for flying during winter months and this aspect needs to be kept in mind. Low clouds may form very quickly and cover larger areas and particularly in the hilly regions, they can cover the entire valleys without any gaps for penetration.
  • (g) Fuel planning is of great importance since one may be forced to divert due to poor visibility conditions and most of the time, a diversion may not be easily available due to widespread fog.
  • (h) For Helicopters, It is always advisable to land at a suitable site if unable to proceed rather than persisting with the  hope  to find clear areas. This can be fatal at times.
  • (i) Ground contact flying should be the rule for helicopter pilots.
  • (j) Spatial disorientation is one of the serious challenge and hazard during poor vis conditions. Be familiar about it.
  • (k) Trust your instruments. In two pilot configurations, if the situation demands, then one pilot should be totally on instruments and other looking outside. Firmly resist the temptation of flying on instruments as well as looking out. This can be dangerous.
  • (l) Know the terrain and route safety altitudes well and plan your levels accordingly. Check, recheck and double check.
  • (m) Know the obstructions in your area of operations. Pylons, communication/chimney towers, electric/telephone cables, trolley cables particularly in hilly areas. All these obstructions pose a major hazard and knowledge of these is important specially for helicopter pilots.
  • (n) Trolley cables come up in hilly areas to cart apples from one hillock to other and vigilance is required to look for the same. Kindly intimate other operators in your area of operations about the existence of such hazards and mark them on maps.
  • (o) Operations in snow bound areas require special skill levels, Special briefing and training is essential for safe operations in these areas. Snow blindness (white out),blowing snow during pick up, hover and sit down, skids/wheels getting stuck in snow, slippery conditions while on snow or melting of snow during long hours of operations and disorientation(White out) are some of the aspects which need to be taken into account for snow bound area
  • (p) Ice formation at high altitudes is a serious hazard. Anti icing measures like serviceable and available ice detectors, heating elements, need for frequent movement of controls to prevent jamming of controls due ice formation, knowledge about freezing level and potential of ice formation are some of the areas requiring attention of the operators.
  • (q) For helicopters,before take off at high altitudes, ensure that the main, tail rotor blades and other surface areas are free of ice formation.
  • (r) Check the manufacturer’s instructions about adding anti –icing additives in the fuel and use proper additive as required.
  • (s) Check and ensure the serviceability of wind screen wipers,pitot heaters. Do not forget to switch on pitot heaters whenever required and switching them off on landing.
  • (t) Be aware that snow fall can change the appearance of the terrain and perspective during navigation and takeoff/landing.
  • (u) Batteries need to be maintained properly and protected during night from extreme cold temperatures by wrapping in blankets etc particularly for helicopters.
  • (v) Cracking of various seals can take place and must be checked periodically.
  • (w) Regular ground runs should be given at periodic intervals.
  • (x) Engineer and technicians should be told to ensure thoroughness during their maintenance and servicing activities. Tendency to take short cuts due to very cold temperatures should be highlighted and avoided.
  • (y) Low light conditions during winter months may result in minor cracks or other small defects getting overlooked. Ensure adequate lighting for servicing and maintenance work.
  • (z) Maintenance staff should be careful while climbing on the aircraft/ helicopter for maintenance work since surface may be slippery due to frost, icing etc.
  • (aa) Take special precautions during taxiing and maintain very good look out for obstructions, aircraft and vehicles.
  • (bb) Make sure that anti collision and nav lights are serviceable and switched on during flying.
  • (bb) Some time the slant visibility may be good but horizontal visibility may be bad. Be careful and aware.
  • (cc) Western disturbances may cause severe weather conditions during winters and hence be prepared to face them in safe manner.
  • (dd) Never take chances with the poor weather conditions and don’t be overconfident. Overconfidence has taken the lives of many pilots.
  • (ee) There may be occasions when frustration may set in because of the delays and postponement of departure timings/dates and long wait on ground due prolonged bad weather spells. Number of pilots have taken chances with weather under such conditions and have met with serious /fatal accidents. Please be aware of the grave danger under such conditions and take very considered decisions. Involvement of CEO’s, senior supervisors,op managers etc in close monitoring of operations can go a long way ensuring safety of operations.
  • Although efforts have been made to include as many hazards of winter flying as possible yet the list is not exhaustive. Operators may like to add other aspects which may be typical to their area of operations.
  • Operators should always endeavor to match the man with the machine, mission and weather conditions. Adequate instrument flying practice, simulator flying, currency, recency in area of operations, comprehensive briefing covering the entire spectrum of the various aspects of the operations and monitoring performance are key to the successful conduct of the operations. Respecting the weather and courage of conviction to say no if the safety of the flight is likely to be compromised must be impressed upon the pilots.

 

 


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