Helicopters in Snowstorms

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Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:03 am

Part of this is research for a novel, part of it is just for my personal edification. I'd like to know how a blizzard would affect the flight of a helicopter. Is flying in subzero weather just not possible? How would a pilot handle it if they flew into a storm because there was simply no other option?
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by TacAir » Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:09 am

Gosh, the Army files choppers in the cold at Ft Greeley and Wainwright (AK) all the time, year around.

Visibility is an issue, you can't see, you don't fly.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by RickOShea » Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:32 am

Well, cold air is usually denser....denser air provides more lift. But I suppose there could be performance problems with icing on the leading edges of the blades, or the engines sucking in ice/snow.Image
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 2:04 am

TacAir wrote:Gosh, the Army files choppers in the cold at Ft Greeley and Wainwright (AK) all the time, year around.

Visibility is an issue, you can't see, you don't fly.
That's true, the Army flies helicopters on Fort Carson here, too. I never bothered to notice if they fly in inclement weather.
RickOShea wrote:Well, cold air is usually denser....denser air provides more lift. But I suppose there could be performance problems with icing on the leading edges of the blades, or the engines sucking in ice/snow.Image
I guess that's my question: what would cause a helicopter to crash in a snowstorm? In my novel, the helicopter needs to crash, but it also needs to get off the ground in the first place, then fly into the blizzard against conventional wisdom.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by woodsghost » Sat Aug 26, 2017 7:53 am

There are millions of reasons for helicopters to crash. They crash all the time despite good weather and the best maitence. They don't need a blizzard as an excuse. But I'm sure a blizzard would up the chances.

High winds could knock the helicopter around.

If this is in an apocalypse, old gas could be sluggish, or freeze, or something could simply be out of tune/spec and cause the crash.

Might want to check if ice can form on the roter blades.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Aug 26, 2017 8:02 am

Since The Day After Tomorrow was such a scrupulously realistic movie, I'm sure it's just like this. :v:


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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by raptor » Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:48 am

Ok I am a pilot but do not fly rotary wing aircraft. Blizzard conditions come in many forms.
The key issue in winter ops is icing. To the best of my knowledge no helos are certified for flight in icing conditions. The larger ones may be but Google it with the above terms.

In a blizzard you have both high winds and cold. However aerial icing conditions exist in a band of temperatures. It is quite common for it to be too cold for icing to occur.

The key cold weather issue is fuel gelling caused by cold, but that is known issue and addressed generally with Prist or other fuel additives. If a diesel engine can operate the turbine engine will likewise operate. Once started the engine really does not care much about a normal range of ambient air temps either high or low. The temperature may effect the power output but aircraft manuals have both density altitude and temperature charts.

The other key risk area is the wind and visibility caused by blowing snow when landing it taking off. All aircraft should take off and land into the wind. Helos are particularly affected by weathercocking but pilots are also trained to deal with that issue. Still high surface wind landings and takeoff is hazardous in helos.

This is a long way of saying your question depends upon which helo and the actual weather conditions.

I will say all pilots faced with a flight in any blizzard would prefer to not do it even if the craft is capable. It requires superior skills and increases risk tremendously. A superior pilot uses his knowledge to stay out of situations that require the use of his superior skills.Planes have lots of little items that can malfunction. Each in and of themselves are not an issue but in this situation may make the safe completion of the flight impossible.


Edited add: I googled it and saw the Sikorsky s-76 and s-92 models with specialized equipment are certified into known icing conditions.

Also I would note military aircraft have their own certification rules and operational limits. Which are not always made public.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Stercutus » Sat Aug 26, 2017 2:13 pm

These helicopters are older than nearly every service member and the majority of Americans.

Image

They still go in the winter. As noted by others crashing a helicopter is really easy. They pretty much crash themselves without constant input from the pilot.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 2:55 pm

Stercutus wrote:These helicopters are older than nearly every service member and the majority of Americans.

Image

They still go in the winter. As noted by others crashing a helicopter is really easy. They pretty much crash themselves without constant input from the pilot.
Fantastic (for my novel, that is). So a Super Puma in a blizzard with eight trigger-happy guys on board surrounding an oversized zombie (e.g., "The Mountain" from "Game of Thrones") that just woke up...good chance the huey's going to crash.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by NT2C » Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:28 pm

Foolbard wrote:
Stercutus wrote:These helicopters are older than nearly every service member and the majority of Americans.

Image

They still go in the winter. As noted by others crashing a helicopter is really easy. They pretty much crash themselves without constant input from the pilot.
Fantastic (for my novel, that is). So a Super Puma in a blizzard with eight trigger-happy guys on board surrounding an oversized zombie (e.g., "The Mountain" from "Game of Thrones") that just woke up...good chance the huey's going to crash.
I missed the part where the Huey flew in...
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by RickOShea » Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:30 pm

Foolbard wrote: Fantastic (for my novel, that is). So a Super Puma in a blizzard with eight trigger-happy guys on board surrounding an oversized zombie (e.g., "The Mountain" from "Game of Thrones") that just woke up...good chance the huey's going to crash.
Now, you do realize that a Super Puma and a Huey are two different aircraft, don't you?



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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:56 pm

Nope, I didn't realize that. I thought "huey" was just another term for a helicopter. My mistake.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by NT2C » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:05 pm

Foolbard wrote:Nope, I didn't realize that. I thought "huey" was just another term for a helicopter. My mistake.
The name "Huey" comes from the military model designation of UH-1 ("UH" being "Utility Helicopter"). We used 'em by the hundreds in Vietnam and afterward. A helluva lot of them are still flying too.
May I make a small suggestion here? Spend some time talking to actual pilots and aviation buffs. If you want to use aircraft in your story, and you have no real personal experience with them, you're going to make a lot of errors involving them. Learn the lingo from people who actually speak it and live it. Nothing kills a book faster for me as when the author clearly doesn't know what they're writing about (like the one idiot I read a story from where he had a guided missile cruiser tracking and shooting at a helicopter with ASROC and Harpoon anti-ship missiles) and all it takes is just one glaring error that no one who really knew the subject would ever make. If you can't do that at least try to have an actual helo pilot read the final draft.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:09 pm

KJ4VOV wrote:
Foolbard wrote:Nope, I didn't realize that. I thought "huey" was just another term for a helicopter. My mistake.
The name "Huey" comes from the military model designation of UH-1 ("UH" being "Utility Helicopter"). We used 'em by the hundreds in Vietnam and afterward. A helluva lot of them are still flying too.
May I make a small suggestion here? Spend some time talking to actual pilots and aviation buffs. If you want to use aircraft in your story, and you have no real personal experience with them, you're going to make a lot of errors involving them. Learn the lingo from people who actually speak it and live it. Nothing kills a book faster for me as when the author clearly doesn't know what they're writing about (like the one idiot I read a story from where he had a guided missile cruiser tracking and shooting at a helicopter with ASROC and Harpoon anti-ship missiles) and all it takes is just one glaring error that no one who really knew the subject would ever make. If you can't do that at least try to have an actual helo pilot read the final draft.
I have been on the lookout for a pilot who could be a beta reader for the finished project. You're right, the details are important. I recently read a book that had somebody doing a HALO jump without any gear, and that was the least of their sins. That's one reason I'm here, to at least learn the basics of what I can learn.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by NT2C » Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:17 pm

Foolbard wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:
Foolbard wrote:Nope, I didn't realize that. I thought "huey" was just another term for a helicopter. My mistake.
The name "Huey" comes from the military model designation of UH-1 ("UH" being "Utility Helicopter"). We used 'em by the hundreds in Vietnam and afterward. A helluva lot of them are still flying too.
May I make a small suggestion here? Spend some time talking to actual pilots and aviation buffs. If you want to use aircraft in your story, and you have no real personal experience with them, you're going to make a lot of errors involving them. Learn the lingo from people who actually speak it and live it. Nothing kills a book faster for me as when the author clearly doesn't know what they're writing about (like the one idiot I read a story from where he had a guided missile cruiser tracking and shooting at a helicopter with ASROC and Harpoon anti-ship missiles) and all it takes is just one glaring error that no one who really knew the subject would ever make. If you can't do that at least try to have an actual helo pilot read the final draft.
I have been on the lookout for a pilot who could be a beta reader for the finished project. You're right, the details are important. I recently read a book that had somebody doing a HALO jump without any gear, and that was the least of their sins. That's one reason I'm here, to at least learn the basics of what I can learn.
Good, because while getting those details right might not make you the next Clive Cussler, they will help keep you from becoming the next Harlan Bancroft III.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:31 pm

KJ4VOV wrote:Good, because while getting those details right might not make you the next Clive Cussler, they will help keep you from becoming the next Harlan Bancroft III.
"Who?"

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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by raptor » Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:43 pm

BTW since you are using a Super Puma read up on the fact the recently had serious issues and the oil patch folks basically stopped using them for a while. I believe they returned to service in 2016.

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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 6:59 pm

raptor wrote:BTW since you are using a Super Puma read up on the fact the recently had serious issues and the oil patch folks basically stopped using them for a while. I believe they returned to service in 2016.
I chose the Super Puma because of its dodgy history, and the fact it can carry the men and equipment I need it to. The PMC that owns it gets what it can where it can, including its employees. It's their fault we're all going to get et by zombies.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by yossarian » Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:08 pm

Check out Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. He was a Huey pilot in Vietnam. Even if you don't get anything useful out of it (you will), its an awesome book.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:34 pm

yossarian wrote:Check out Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. He was a Huey pilot in Vietnam. Even if you don't get anything useful out of it (you will), its an awesome book.
I've heard good things. It's on my TBR list. Thank you.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by RickOShea » Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:46 pm

yossarian wrote:Check out Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. He was a Huey pilot in Vietnam. Even if you don't get anything useful out of it (you will), its an awesome book.
My 10th grade English teacher caught me reading Chickenhawk, instead of the assigned book....but she'd read it too, and allowed me to do a report on it instead. :awesome:
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by NT2C » Sun Aug 27, 2017 10:05 am

Foolbard wrote: I have been on the lookout for a pilot who could be a beta reader for the finished project.
Just head over to one of your local general aviation fields on a weekend. There will generally be an FBO there (fixed base operator) that you can walk into and talk to someone. Explain that you're a writer doing a story that involves aircraft. They'll know a pilot or two that will talk to you and help you out. Once you talk to one word will go out and you'll likely get put into contact with someone with direct experience on that particular aircraft, maybe even get a chance to fly in one (pro tip, offer to chip in on the fuel).
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by Foolbard » Sun Aug 27, 2017 10:29 am

KJ4VOV wrote:
Foolbard wrote: I have been on the lookout for a pilot who could be a beta reader for the finished project.
Just head over to one of your local general aviation fields on a weekend. There will generally be an FBO there (fixed base operator) that you can walk into and talk to someone. Explain that you're a writer doing a story that involves aircraft. They'll know a pilot or two that will talk to you and help you out. Once you talk to one word will go out and you'll likely get put into contact with someone with direct experience on that particular aircraft, maybe even get a chance to fly in one (pro tip, offer to chip in on the fuel).
I'm not sure I could afford fuel, but I could pay them for their time and a cup of coffee. Thank you for the advice.
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Re: Helicopters in Snowstorms

Post by raptor » Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:48 pm

That is good advice to talk to FBOs. The helo pilots will not offer rides because they generally do not own them and can't. The fixed wing guys may however since most of these are privately owned. Go to one of the smaller fields on a weekend. Ask where the old guys go get coffee for some hangar talk.

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