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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 2:16 pm 
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IIRC from some research of my own, the Super Puma had problems with the main gearbox in cold conditions. I do recall that gearbox problems brought down a few copters over it's service life.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 6:26 pm 
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The choice of helicopter may have to be determined by the story's military/civilian group operating it and their area of operation. Then take the shortcomings/strengths of that particular rotary winged aircraft and work them into the story.

From the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%A9ro ... Puma#Civil

Military

Argentina
France (country of origin)
Lebanon
Morocco
Pakistan
Portugal
South Africa
United Kingdom

Civil

One of the largest and prominent operators of the type was Bristow Helicopters, where the Puma was regularly used for offshore operations over the North Sea. During the 1970s, Bristow had sought to begin replacing their Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, the Puma was selected after a highly competitively-priced bid had been made by Aerospatiale; Puma G-BFSV was the first of the type to enter service with Bristow. From 1979 onwards, the Puma formed the mainstay of the Bristow fleet; the type took over the duties of Bristow's retiring Westland Wessex helicopters in 1981. In 1982, Bristow introduced the more powerful Super Puma into service, supplementing their then-total fleet of 11 SA 330J Pumas.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 3:12 pm 
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I've seen an air ambulance land on snow in gusts where people could barely stay standing... But that was in clear weather. Up here in Norway pilots train a lot for that kind of stuff, but a pilot from southern Europe would probably only have basic training in flying in cold an snowy condition. Maybe have them hire a shady pilot from Mexico or something, with little experience in the north?

Also, last I heard on the news the super puma is allowed to fly again after mandatory modifications, but the operators an oil companies in the north sea want nothing to do anymore and are getting rid of them. Maybe your company bought one of them and did not do the repairs or bother to inspect it...

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:59 am 
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First of all, y'all have been very helpful with this. I'm here to learn about preparing for disaster and do research for my novel at the same time, so the fact y'all have gone out of the way to help me with the latter when the former is the focus of this forum is something I greatly appreciate. Because this is a forum focused on emergency preparedness and not literary research, I didn't want to give you a plot outline of my book. That said, I think maybe providing a few more details about the plot might help with continued feedback.

Long story short, the guys flying the helicopter are mercenaries who specialize in black ops. They are dressed as civilians in Farmington, New Mexico, until they get the green light from their superiors. The twelve mercenaries then fly their helicopter to Dulce, New Mexico, where they enter a secret underground base; their orders are to collect a large containment unit, then destroy the facility and everyone in it. They do so, but lose four men in the process. The remaining eight mercenaries take the containment unit back to the helicopter, and head for Fort Carson, Colorado.

About the time they're west of Pueblo, Colorado, the mercenaries run into a blizzard. What they don't know is their boss actually wants them to crash, so the helicopter is not the latest and greatest in technology; it's a flying rust bucket with questionable maintenance. Oh, and the containment unit has been rigged to open earlier than expected, so the eight mercenaries are suddenly dealing with a blizzard, a dodgy aircraft, and a very large, very angry bioweapon that doesn't feel pain. That causes the helicopter to crash on Fort Carson, kickstarting the zombie apocalypse.

My original thought was to have the mercenaries unload some kind of bomb on a remote-controlled cart from the helicopter to the secret facility. They then load the containment unit onto the cart, so they don't have to carry it out. That means the helicopter has to support twelve guys, a cart, a rather large explosive, and all the mercenaries' gear. My first thought was of a Blackhawk, but I don't know that it could handle the weight (Patient Zero is a rather big fella). So I went with the Super Puma, especially after hearing about its dodgy history.

Because it's a PMC that owns the helicopter, and because the CEO of that PMC is a criminal with no qualms about much of anything, they could get the helicopter from pretty much anywhere, by any means. It just has to carry the weight. Once it crashes, I dunno how the FAA would investigate in the middle of a blizzard and the dawn of a zombie uprising.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:19 am 
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wikipedia will have cargo capacity and such for helos so a Blackhawk could be checked out

Why a secret underground base? More likely to be spotted by the DEA, Border Patrol etc. Mexicam cartels operate successfully out of ordinary warehouses.

The head bad guy apparently has lots of money. Rather than choose a "rust bucket" just have a cell phone detonated bomb in the otherwise good helicopter.

It would more likely be local first responders going to a helo crash. FAA would show up later to investigate the how and why of the crash

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:55 am 
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teotwaki wrote:
wikipedia will have cargo capacity and such for helos so a Blackhawk could be checked out

Why a secret underground base? More likely to be spotted by the DEA, Border Patrol etc. Mexicam cartels operate successfully out of ordinary warehouses.

The head bad guy apparently has lots of money. Rather than choose a "rust bucket" just have a cell phone detonated bomb in the otherwise good helicopter.

It would more likely be local first responders going to a helo crash. FAA would show up later to investigate the how and why of the crash

NTSB would likely be the lead agency on the ground though. Might be an FAA guy there but there will be half a dozen NTSB folks.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:10 am 
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Foolbard wrote:
About the time they're west of Pueblo, Colorado, the mercenaries run into a blizzard. What they don't know is their boss actually wants them to crash, so the helicopter is not the latest and greatest in technology; it's a flying rust bucket with questionable maintenance. Oh, and the containment unit has been rigged to open earlier than expected, so the eight mercenaries are suddenly dealing with a blizzard, a dodgy aircraft, and a very large, very angry bioweapon that doesn't feel pain. That causes the helicopter to crash on Fort Carson, kickstarting the zombie apocalypse.

Yeah, you'd have lost me as a reader at this point. My mind would be churning with too many questions to stay immersed in the story.

  • The blizzard could not have been foreseen for this. It takes time to put stuff like this in motion, get assets in place, then run the flag up.
  • Who rigged the containment device? Were they brought out too?
  • No pilot worth their rating would accept a "dodgy" aircraft for something like this; they'd want stuff fixed before wheels up, especially if there were down time before mission go.
  • Even if you accept that the pilot was coerced or enticed (with enough cash many things are possible) into accepting the dodgy aircraft, failures can't easily be predicted and this evil boss dude seems like the type that would want guarantees
  • If you, the author, really need the helo to crash, let the "bioweapon" cause damage to the wiring/controls, or a stray round take out a fuel/oil line.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:32 am 
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teotwaki wrote:
wikipedia will have cargo capacity and such for helos so a Blackhawk could be checked out

Why a secret underground base? More likely to be spotted by the DEA, Border Patrol etc. Mexicam cartels operate successfully out of ordinary warehouses.

The head bad guy apparently has lots of money. Rather than choose a "rust bucket" just have a cell phone detonated bomb in the otherwise good helicopter.

It would more likely be local first responders going to a helo crash. FAA would show up later to investigate the how and why of the crash


I planned it as an underground base as a nod to the conspiracy theories about Archuleta Mesa, just north of Dulce on the Colorado border. Supposedly there's some kind of super secret alien DNA thing going on there (I personally have my doubts). The conspiracy theory inspired the video game "Half-Life" and their "Black Mesa." Just one of those Easter eggs for the sci-fi/gamer crowd.

There's no real reason it has to be underground, but I figure there's less of a chance of John Q. Citizen stumbling upon it if it's below ground.

KJ4VOV wrote:
teotwaki wrote:
wikipedia will have cargo capacity and such for helos so a Blackhawk could be checked out

Why a secret underground base? More likely to be spotted by the DEA, Border Patrol etc. Mexicam cartels operate successfully out of ordinary warehouses.

The head bad guy apparently has lots of money. Rather than choose a "rust bucket" just have a cell phone detonated bomb in the otherwise good helicopter.

It would more likely be local first responders going to a helo crash. FAA would show up later to investigate the how and why of the crash

NTSB would likely be the lead agency on the ground though. Might be an FAA guy there but there will be half a dozen NTSB folks.


I've been doing research on Wikipedia, though those figures may or may not be correct. Where I can, I get specs from Jane's or from the manufacturers themselves (some websites will give very generic information, but sometimes it's enough).

KJ4VOV wrote:
Foolbard wrote:
About the time they're west of Pueblo, Colorado, the mercenaries run into a blizzard. What they don't know is their boss actually wants them to crash, so the helicopter is not the latest and greatest in technology; it's a flying rust bucket with questionable maintenance. Oh, and the containment unit has been rigged to open earlier than expected, so the eight mercenaries are suddenly dealing with a blizzard, a dodgy aircraft, and a very large, very angry bioweapon that doesn't feel pain. That causes the helicopter to crash on Fort Carson, kickstarting the zombie apocalypse.

Yeah, you'd have lost me as a reader at this point. My mind would be churning with too many questions to stay immersed in the story.

  • The blizzard could not have been foreseen for this. It takes time to put stuff like this in motion, get assets in place, then run the flag up.
  • Who rigged the containment device? Were they brought out too?
  • No pilot worth their rating would accept a "dodgy" aircraft for something like this; they'd want stuff fixed before wheels up, especially if there were down time before mission go.
  • Even if you accept that the pilot was coerced or enticed (with enough cash many things are possible) into accepting the dodgy aircraft, failures can't easily be predicted and this evil boss dude seems like the type that would want guarantees
  • If you, the author, really need the helo to crash, let the "bioweapon" cause damage to the wiring/controls, or a stray round take out a fuel/oil line.


Thank you for the feedback. The containment device was rigged before the mercenaries arrived, on the orders of the CEO of the company with the contract to build the weapon. He figured out he was being cut out of the picture by the others in his group, so rigging the containment unit was his middle finger to all of them when he couldn't do much else. To the people who actually reconfigured the unit, it was merely a change in plans.

As far as the pilot goes, he is getting a hell of a lot of money to do what he's told with no questions asked. The money he's being paid is equal to the risk. Of course he won't be alive to spend it, but he doesn't know that. You do bring up a good point about the PMC CEO wanting a guarantee. His men will follow his orders like Bane's followers in The Dark Knight Rises, where one of Bane's men willingly stays behind on a plane that will crash, and others accept that Bane will kill them for failing him.

Patient Zero certainly would cause a lot of chaos on board once he wakes up, and anyone stupid enough to shoot at him in a panic will make problems worse. But like you said, the CEO wants his guarantees, so he'd probably have a backup plan. I like the idea of a cell phone bomb that perhaps blows out the cockpit controls, making it at least difficult for the helicopter to crash.

Thank you (sincerely) for poking holes at my story. It helps me fill in those gaps and consider what I need to make the story stronger.

Perhaps it would be best for the helicopter to be in good repair, but a combination of the storm, the containment unit, and a cell phone bomb or somesuch makes it all go sideways. Once the FAA or NTSB or whoever arrives, the city will be under the throes of a zombie outbreak, so that will hamper their investigation. Containing a wave of violent activity across the city will take priority over figuring out how a few guys died in a helicopter crash. Add that to the fact the power behind the PMC is such that they have loads of political and military clout, and they can weasel their way into pretty much anything they need to. Money is a magnificent lubricant in that regard.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 11:55 am 
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Foolbard wrote:
Thank you (sincerely) for poking holes at my story. It helps me fill in those gaps and consider what I need to make the story stronger.

If you get it published a small thank you to the good folks at ZS in the dedication would be nice. :wink:

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 12:50 pm 
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All my research on PMSCs indicates they don't die for their bosses, but some will die for their friends. I believe that is a hole and the "friends & loyalty" angle should be explored. Just my opinion.

Death might be bought if the employees are from really poor countries. Money for family can be a good motivation. That has been seen with some terrorists.

My memory says some Ukrainian pilots few some pretty shoddy aircraft in the Eritria/Ethiopia war. Some other wars too but I'd have to check.

A questionable pilot could come from Ukraine, Mexico, El Salvador, Russia, China, Colombia, Venezuela, maybe Egypt.

I would have said that money does not buy that kind of power as your company seems to have, but recent issues with the IRS and FBI make me re-think that. However, post 2007-Nisur Square, a lot has gone into increasing PMSC accountability, including bringing them under the US Code of Military Justice. If they work with the US military, there is a lot less wiggle room than existed pre-2007.

Maybe as security contractors under BLM contact they could do more. Contracting under other government agencies allows more wiggle room, as I understand.

Just some thoughts.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:51 am 
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I flew UH-1D/H in Korea during a blizzard. The only danger I was concerned with was wires since navigating is extremely difficult, and the OH-6 that we nearly did a head-on with. Got the XO to give up on the mission and head back to our field.

Flew in heavy snow showers in AZ. When visibility got too low our flight of two (R22) landed in a field. We continued on to Sedona when snow rate lightened.

The danger of flying in snow is if you go zero visibility in flight without an artificial horizon. Or landing in snow without taking the acft directly to ground (don't try to hover in a whiteout). Flying/driving faster than you can see in any weather is where you will have that unexpected "Oh Jesus" moment and meet him.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:45 pm 
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A suggestion, if the plot is started by some billionare or goverment entity instead of the blizzard causing the crash in a Super Puma maybe instead use the V-22 Osprey. It's ideal for quick entry and evac without a a runway. They are a general's wet dream for land assault. The heilocopter rotors tilt forward 90 degrees to go as fast as a propeller driven plane but can tilt them again upwards 90 degrees to takeoff and land like a normal heilocopter. Unfortunately, they have a lamentable history of crashes so one that went down wouldn't neccessarily be as suspect as other assets.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:59 pm 
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I worked in aviation for a few years, either on the ramp or in the shop, as well as some college training for aviation management.

One of the factors in many accidents is something called "get-home-itis", and I've personally seen an otherwise good pilot roll his airplane up in a ball because he didn't want to wait for the weather to clear up. Fortunately, he came out ok, but his perfectly restored Tripacer had been re-kitted.
It happens in all aviation circles, and isn't just "get-home" all the time, sometimes the pressure is from an employer or ranking officer, or even an airline/charter dispatcher. Yes, the pilot has the final say, but not all of them will assert this and will go anyway... or land when they should have diverted (airliner several years ago in Little Rock... we had the pieces in one of our hangars for a while after it ended up in the river).

In the O.P.'s story, sounds like icing would be an easy culprit, as it can happen even in clear air. Moisture can gather on a cold surface and build up until the weight/shape of the wing (or helicopter rotor) will no longer sustain flight. The effect would be a sluggish aircraft that gradually loses its ability to maneuver or hold altitude. A fixed wing aircraft will do the same, and the stall characteristics of the wing will change, until it reaches a point where the plane enters a stall/spin condition that may be unrecoverable.

Frequently, you can either climb (if caught before it gets too bad) or descend, to an altitude where icing conditions do not exist, to at least stop the buildup... or even allow the ice to melt or break off.

Many more advanced aircraft have anti-icing systems, from the 'weeping' panels, which distribute an antifreeze chemical over the wing from the leading edge, to a pneumatic system that inflates/deflates to break up the forming ice before it gets too thick to deal with.

Ice also forms on the structure otherwise, struts, landing gear, etc... but is more of a weight/drag issue and not quite as immediately dangerous as wing/rotor ice.

Then, there's induction icing. If you've been in aviation circles, you'll have heard the term "carb heat" at some point, it's in most carbed aircraft landing checklists. As air is drawn through the intake, or carburetor, the narrowing passage accelerates the air and reduces the pressure from ambient, which can cool the air quite a bit. You can actually be flying in 70 degree weather, and still suffer from carb icing, which chokes off the engine, causing it to run rich, and eventually die. Induction icing can also happen with turboshaft aircraft, like higher-end helicopters, but I don't think they're as sensitive to it as a 100hp Continental.

Ok... I'm kinda going on and on here... I hope you can get something out of my :words:

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:35 pm 
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Foolbard, you could also post your questions on a helo board and get some good replies, probably even a volunteer or two to provide advice/edits. For example: http://helicopterforum.verticalreference.com/

The V-22 Osprey would work well and be modern but only for uncontested delivery/departures. They have supreme range but need escorts. If it was me, I'd go with a Phrog, but I am biased. I have been in the back with 12 pax and a large case in snowstorms and rain that caused the formation to lose visuals of each other. Did some training in them in Norway, for example, and in colder places like Ft. Drum.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:33 am 
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Foolbard wrote:
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.


Huge question really.

In Colorado the biggest flight medical agency, Flight for Life, flies Astars. They don't fly IFR in fact they pulled all of their IFR gear. Could an Astar sustain flight in high winds and snow? Sure. Entering IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) in a VFR vehicle is a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand some agencies here use the Bell 412, set up for IFR. It's a bigger chopper very reliable in adverse weather and usually comes set up for IFR flying.


If I were writing a book I'd make it about the lack of instrument flight capability in a chopper, or being compelled to fly a VFR bird into IMC.

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