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Chopper crossess my runway nearly killed us


DrZoos
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This happened last week and i wasnt going to say anything , but i think posting it may help save a life.

 

The other aircraft was a fire fighting helicopter - Helicat 2##

 

I started flying circuits at approx 7.45am and was doing practice glide approaches and touch and goes on 03. I had done about 10 circuits when the first of two fire fighting helicopters took off. I was on base when the first called and took off direct west from the helipad, across the active runway near taxiway Charlie at about 75ft on heading approx 270. I had no idea there was a second one about to go.

 

Then when i was on short final i heard a call that i couldn’t quiet make out, but i knew it was My airport so i made an extra call to say i was on short final for 03. I touched down and then took off. When i was about 50 ft altitude i noticed a second helicopter heading towards the runway at about 50 ft and appeared to be at first taxiing/ I then noticed he was accelerating and climbing toward the runway at 90 degree to the runway. I made a call “Helicopter Helicopter Avoid”

 

I got no reply and the helicopter was heading for an exact collision path over runway 03 at about 150 – 200 feet. I realized i could not turn right in case he stopped , or go under or over him due to his down-draft, so i turned sharp to the left heading 270. We avoided collision by about 100-150 feet and ended up both heading 270 at about 200 feet. For a moment i had no idea whether we where going to collide or not as he was underneath me since i was on a 60 degree bank trying to avoid him.

 

He took no evasive action at all.

 

They didn’t learn from the situation, as i saw them depart the following days and all three took off from the heli-pad and flew straight across the runway again. Including with an aircraft in late final position.

 

What i learned from it was take evasive action as early as possible. Never wait and see. When i was fifty feet and started turning to avoid, i thought i was taking action far too early. Thank god i did. As the later part happened so damn fast no human could have changed its destiny. Had i not turned way early i would be dead.

 

I had just taken off so didnt have enough airspeed to be pulling any other moves.

 

In hindsight going right would have been better. But at the time going right looked more dangerous in case he stopped.

 

An eye witness that saw the whole thing and has 30 years airport exp said it was the closest thing he has seen.

 

 

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You should immediately contact the managing government department and notify them of the facts and any witnesses.

 

You also have an obligation to submit a REPCON before someone is killed. Go to atsb.gov.au

 

Kaz

 

 

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Hi yeh i did the report to atsb via casa website. No they where not carrying water. They where ones that carry people, maybe up to say 12 people in the back ( huge) but the had say around 3 - 6 pob judging from subsequent days take offs.

 

I sent a copy of my report to nsw fire safety division...

 

I know they have limited fuel etc etc so dont want to wait around, but this guy clearly didnt even look or listen. And i think this case is why they should never be allowed to cross the active runway. Especially straight from a lift off to flight across the runway.

 

They where on our frequency, i heard the first one clearly. I didnt hear the second one clearly but he did call, which was the one i didnt hear properly. But he still had all my circuit calls and my extra call, plus use of the eyeball to avoid me. I had landing light and strobes on.

 

 

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Certainly some anxious moments for you. Turning right is the correct procedure but if the image is moving left to right on your screen a left would work better. If it is stationary, you collide. Horrible feeling I would warrant. It has to be reported. That's the law. Glad you survived ..Would have made the news. Nev

 

 

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Also in hindsight i probably could have landed and taxi under him or behind him, but prob would have got flipped by his turbulence. The thing is massive , my aircraft wingspan would be lucky to be 3/4 the size of one of his rotors. I saw it land friday beside a cessna skydiving plane, not sure on model but it carrys about 4 skydivers in it. Lucky the cessna was tied down because it was bouncing off the ground from the draft.

 

So for sure me going half that close would have been an on roof experience.. But in hindsight possibly still a safer option.

 

Any how my point in posting this is take evasive action far before you think you need to, because if you don't, you wont be posting your story. Secondly i dont think it would hurt for everyone to run through how they will deal with a few more likely situation like this and have a mental picture of how you might deal with it, because if i had wasted half a second longer deciding, it was all over. Eg what about when the plane holding, lunges foward into your path as your passing the taxiway. Or as the guy doing a straght in on the wrong radio appears on a collision path as your about to turn final. Or as a guy rolls onto the active when your about to touchdown, or as a head on is coming straight at you.....

 

I think the ten minutes it would take to think about these and have an idea what to do in each will save your life if it happens..

 

Id like to say you will have time to evaluate and decide, but in my case , no way

 

 

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I've often wondered if a small plane holding rolled forward into a Dash 8 at lift off speed what the result would be. I advise anyone doing this to have room to turn prior to the markers unless the brakes are totally reliable.. I had a B 707 roll onto the runway, when I was about 200' on final at Mascot, without clearance to do so.. Being in the right doesn't save the day.. Nev

 

 

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When i first realised i thought cant go right cant go straight. So i started to turn left thinking initially thinking , i have heaps of time, maybe im turning too early. Within half a second i thought shit cant go over, cant go under need to keep turning sharper, heaps sharper . Within another half second i was thinking f u - - We are goingto collide and within another half second i was side on to the ground at 150 ft waiting for his rotors to come thru the floor and desperately trying not to stall it into the ground, but desperately trying to halt my momentum towards him any further.. Thats about all the time you get.

 

 

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Yeh Nev that was the scared ive been in a long time..... I knew i was turning very hard, but i had no idea what he was doing at that stage. It was only about a second or so but it was a moment of complete madness... I was almost shocked when i levelled right beside them, even though it was utter relief, it was frightning being so close. I could see the left seat pilots shocked face looking at me...

 

 

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Wow, mate! Well done in very difficult circumstances.

 

I'm glad you filed reports irrespective of your legal obligations; the moral obligation to the flying community including the respective pilots and pax is really the overarching one.

 

These guys live on adrenalin and can become very fixated on the task at the end of the flight, perhaps to the detriment of their thinking processes about getting there. I used to be a bombardier -navigator on a helitack chopper when I worked for DSE in Victoria many years ago and we were there so they had someone else to focus on navigation and drops while they did the flying. This system got changed to where they have a supervisor chopper at the big ones and I guess it was all about carrying a bit more retardant instead of the extra body.

 

Kaz

 

 

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Kaz its funny the days after it happened club members kept saying to me , well done and im thinking , man what else do you do i hadnt really processed it all. But in thinking back now, it was the training i received and the quick actions i took that saved all of us.

 

An old fella in the club had said to me over a few beers, several times a few weeks earlier about the radio being just an aid and how unreliable it can be at times, and the mark 1 eyeball being the thing that will save your life... How true it was, i think i owe him free beer for the rest of his life.

 

He and my instructor had also said people have to stop watching guages so much and spend more time looking for traffic and flying what they see out the window, again how true. Im so glad for the knowledge passed onto me in my short time flying from my fellow club members. They certainly played a significant factor in saving my life.

 

 

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Other than the close call, the other point worth noting is that helicopters are not required to fly 'standard' circuits. They will often take off DIRECTLY into wind, and when heavy always. Runways are really just curiosity to helicopter pilots 022_wink.gif.2137519eeebfc3acb3315da062b6b1c1.gif

 

 

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Guest Maj Millard

Still need to operate in a safe manner in respect to other airport users. Bit like the problem we have up in this area at times with military helicopters, who don't monitor or respond to calls on 126.70 in class G airspace or around CTAF airports, as they should as common users.

 

Was there any notam relating to the fire-fighting helicopter operations ?..............................Maj...024_cool.gif.7a88a3168ebd868f5549631161e2b369.gif

 

 

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Another possibility is that your radio is not transmitting reliably. Mark has set up a self-test system in his area, (http://www.recreationalflying.com/threads/131-375mhz.64087/page-2#post-313226)

 

but the rest of us have to periodically ask for a radio check.

 

My dipole aerial is mounted at an angle in the rear fuselage. We assume radio waves go through plywood in all directions equally, but I'd like to know how much of my signal gets past me and the engine. There might be a reduction in signal strength straight ahead.

 

 

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Wow. What a story. so glad your OK and the crew of the choppa are aswel. had a collision occurred, between a firefighting choppa on a mission and a recreational 'ultralight', im sure you can imagine the headlines, regardless of who was at fault.

 

If the account you gave is 100% accurate then there is no doubt the choppa infringed on the runway and your flightpath which i spose makes it a sort of runway incursion?

 

Can I ask, were there other aircraft in the circuit? Or was it just you and the two choppas?

 

 

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Maj, no notam

 

No i was recently certificated just

 

Just me in the circuit , a friend had recently departed, said my calls where all spot on.. Thats how i found out that it was the 2nd chopper call that i didnt hear. i made the extra short final call just because i heard traffic i was not familiar with. Theres a chance he didnt hear that but he should have looked, heard me turn downwind and base...

 

Maybe he just thought i was for a full stop, even though i called touch n go

 

The ground car was listening and heard my calls clear as. ..

 

Apparently my radio is very clear

 

So it was just a stuff up by the pic of the chopper

 

But their procedures of landing and taking off accross the active even when aircraft are on late final and on the runway leaves a lot to be desired. Especially given there size and turbulance created.. They have been doing it all week, even though the rain has put out all fires.. So there is no urgency, they are just being reckless / inconsiderate / dangerous as a matter of routine

 

 

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Hey Doc. Its a dangerous situation alright, and thank you for sharing. Situations like this can always be used to learn from, for all involved as well as those reading this.

 

So with that in mind I might just add a few points I would use to brief myself and or anyone involved if it happened to me or my students/ pilots.

 

In an earlier post you quoted your old mate and your Instructor "the mark 1 eyeball' is the best avoidance tool. This is certainly true, however, it doesnt just mean look out when your on final and hear a strange call. You said you did 10 ccts and glide approaches. Thats ten downwind legs that can (should) be used to scan the runway, windsock, taxi ways for movement etc. 2 dirty great big cranky palm trees fired up while you were circling the runway for quite some time. I can garuntee that they didnt just suddenly fire up and get airborne during your last lap. You also said they took off from the taxiway, so im assuming they air taxied to the taxi way from their parking areas? More chance for you to see them moving on the ground. My point here is that you have a birdseye view of the runway/ taxiways when your on downwind, use it to suss out whats happening, By your story YOU were relying to heavily on the radio yourself, which is evidenced by the fact you were on final before you realised 2 choppas were airborne or at least taxiing. Situational awareness is the key here, for both the choppa crews and you.

 

The second point. A bigass choppa like that will produce very significant wake turbulence. You stated that you were on base (im assuming a close base if it was a glide approach) and heard/ saw this big sucker flying directly over your runway..A runway you are about to land on and do a touch and go. A heavy choppa should be avoided by at LEAST 3 minutes (even more if practical). You were aware and thinking about wake turbulence which is good, but I would stress that you need to give MORE room then that. An immediate go round from base and climbing back to cct height once you spotted the big dirty palm tree flying in a position you are ABOUT to be in would have been wise.

 

You said these choppas have been busy there. I would suggest you have a chat with the pilots. Perhaps get your chief to brief the club members and the crews of the choppas together and get some communication going. Im surprised you or your chief have not discussed this incident with the pilots involved. That would be step number one for me. Nobody will learn from it in 6 months when CASA or the ATSB get around to chasing it up. These guys are STILL flying there now. Go and have a respectful chat.

 

At the end of the day you got yourself out of this nasty situation, and should take confidence from that. I hope these further points have helped you learn something from it aswel.

 

 

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It sounds as if the heli may have had his volume turned down on his VHF but no excuse for crossing an active without using the mk 1 eyeball usually rfs call signs start with firebird

 

 

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You make some extremely valid and important situational awareness points. Its just that circumstances in this particular situation didnt pan out as you make assumptions above in terms of timing or visibility or circumstances. I was not on a close in or glide on this circuit, trees obscure views of the helicopters from a lot of the circuit and they did not taxi and i had taken into account turbulence and decided i had approx 2.5 minutes (1800m runway and im early base ) which i decided was sufficient. And yes the airport manager interviewed me and decided it was best if he spoke with the other pilot and not me. Plus i was monitoring a plane leaving on downwind and a listening to a QLink inbound plus doing bumfish and watching for traffic. Personally i think my situational awareness was excellent. No one can ever say they see , check and know everything thats going on. Yes i could have watched the choppers more closely, but at the expense of not monitoring the plane leaving, checking for incoming, doing bumfish etc, and even if i had i would never have guessed the 2 nd one would have gone the way he did, and my precautionary call on late final was proof i was extremely situationally aware.they had not started on my previous circuit so to say i had ten circuits to monitor them is not really relevant. I cant really see them doing thier pre startup checklists from the circuit i can only see them once started and for half the circuit once airborne.

 

 

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