Summer and Pre-Monsoon Season is already here and with it, the associated hazards for flying during this season.
Civil Aviation fleet is fortunate to have large number of highly professional, experienced and knowledgeable Civil and Ex-Military Pilots. However, in aviation, there is no room for complacency and we should remain updated with knowledge and awareness to avoid any safety compromises. Hence, it is essential to refresh the memory of the Operators, Pilots, Engineers, technicians and other associated personnel about the hazards associated with Summer, Pre monsoon operations and the precautions which need to be taken to ensure safe and efficient conduct of operations.
Following Precautions Need To Be Observed During Summer, Pre Monsoon Months:-
- Dust storms, Thunderstorms, Hail Storms, Lightening, Wind Shear and even cloud burst are quite common during this period. Norwesters/ Kaal Baisakhi which affect areas between Kolkata and Patna with the core being in the areas around Chhota Nagpur Hills, Ranchi, Kalaikunda -Barrack pore and Bhuvneshwar etc. These areas are very dangerous for flying during Pre Monsoon months. Keeping yourself updated about the weather particularly Thunderstorms, Norwesters is very essential and monitoring these closely will go a long way in avoiding unfortunate accidents.
- Thorough Met Briefing, its professional interpretation and proper route planning becomes very essential during Summer, Pre Monsoon months due to unexpected sudden changes in weather conditions.
- Lightening is a serious hazard during pre-monsoon months. Avoid thunderstorm areas particularly Norwesters. Confirm and ensure proper bonding of the Aircraft/ Helicopter.
- Flying in Northern India particularly during Summer and Pre Monsoon season is quite risky since very high temperatures, severe turbulence and poor visibility over prolonged periods due to dust storms, pose major challenge. Take due precautions.
- Widespread poor visibility conditions over a prolonged duration due to dust storms particularly in Northern India must be taken into consideration while planning flights. Diversionary airports/ helipads must be planned with due care.
- Hailstorms during the Summer, Pre Monsoon season are quite common and can cause serious damage to aircraft/helicopters while flying as well as when parked in the open. It should be ensured that weather radars are fully serviceable and pilots have adequate knowledge to use weather radars intelligently for avoiding the hazardous areas.
- Hill flying requires special attention particularly after around 1200 Hrs. during summer months. Severe turbulence, updrafts on the windward side of the hills and downdraft on the leeward side, valley winds can pose serious hazards and pilots should factor these aspects while operating in hilly terrain.
- Forest fire or burning of the crops may reduce visibility considerably and can lead to disorientation particularly in hilly areas. Be careful.
- Turbulent weather causing updrafts and down drafts can add to the fatigue factor to aircraft/helicopter, its crew and discomfort to passengers. Plan your flight altitude keeping these aspects in mind.
- Bird activity in morning, evening hours and during day time at altitudes above 2000 ft. (Birds also like cool higher altitudes during summer months) demands alertness on the part of pilots.
- Proper parking and lashing of the aircraft/helicopters is much more essential during summer, pre monsoon months since sudden occurrence of thunderstorms which are typical during this period, can catch you by surprise.
- Fuel consumption increases during summer months and fuel planning should be done carefully.
- Ensure that the aircraft/helicopter is properly bonded during refueling operations. Lack of proper bonding has caused number of explosions of aircraft and helicopters all over the world.
- Boiling of battery acids due to high temperatures, degradation of seals and other such material which may lead to leakage of oil/lubricants etc. should be kept in mind.
- Adverse effect of high temperatures and dust during summer months requires parking of aircraft/helicopters inside hangars with proper covers.
- Aircraft/Helicopter metal parts become very hot during summers and due precautions must be taken by aircrew as well as ground crew while working/operating the aircraft/helicopter. Use of proper gloves is recommended.
- Frequent and close monitoring of the parameters of Engine, MGB, TGB and avionics equipment on board the aircraft/ helicopter is recommended since prevailing high temperatures may cause adverse effects. Degradation of electronic equipment is also quite likely during summer months.
- Density altitude is considerably high during summer months. Power available from the engines also is degraded to certain extent due to high temperatures. Hence, the load carrying capability of the aircraft/ helicopter is reduced and should be given due consideration while planning the flight. Landing and Take-off distances increase considerably due to high density altitude obtained in summer months and should be factored during operations.
- Ensure that there are no loose articles in the vicinity of the aircraft/helicopter which can fly and damage the aircraft/helicopter due to strong wind conditions experienced during thunderstorms.
- Do not park aircraft/helicopter in the close vicinity of trees, poles, buildings and other obstructions which may get uprooted /blown during storms and damage the aircraft/ helicopter.
- Ensure that your aircraft/helicopter is not parked in areas which have dry grass fields in the vicinity since chances of fire to dry grass, vegetation are very high during summer months and strong winds may blow the fire towards the aircraft/helicopter.
- Ensure that the helipads are sprayed with water to prevent dust from blowing due to down wash. Brief the concerned staffs to ensure water spray just 15 Mts to half an hour before take-off or landing of helicopter since the surface gets dried very fast and chances of dust being kicked up are very high. Number of accidents have taken place due to dust bowls during landing of Helicopters as the pilots get disorientated due to lack of visual references in a dust bowl.
- Hot and humid climatic conditions add to the fatigue factor of the air as well as ground crew. This aspect must be kept in mind. Adequate rest and sleep in a cool comfortable place, commuting in AC vehicles, plenty of fluid intakes, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages for those who like their chhota peg are some of the suggestion for consideration.
- Always keep adequate supply of water and cold beverages on board the aircraft/helicopter to cater for unforeseen contingencies.
- Ensure that the passengers are properly briefed with particular emphasis on turbulence and check the compliance of use of seat belts during flight.
- Brief the ground liaison staff or concerned staff to make suitable arrangements for crew rest and recuperation particularly for operations from helipads.