- Monsoons have hit the Kerala coast and hopefully in couple of days more, whole country would be under monsoon spell. In addition to the cooling of temperatures, most needed relief to the agriculturist and the problem of water shortage diminishing, monsoons pose number of hazards to the aviators?
- As is well known that Monsoons are associated with strong gusty winds, strong up and down drafts, squalls, poor visibility, low clouds, lightning, hailstorms, thunderstorms and icing etc.
- During monsoon months, number of accidents has taken place in our country.
- Loss of situational awareness, Spatial disorientation, poor decision making, lack of knowledge of the terrain, adequate training, skill levels, currency in instrument flying,reluctance to carry out missed approach when required and failure to carry out precautionary landing(Helicopters) at a suitable place in no go situation(DGCA Air Safety Circular 09 /2013) have been some of the main causes of accidents during monsoon months.
- Personal ego, overconfidence, pressure to undertake the task and get homeitis have been some of the other contributory factors towards occurrence of accidents.
- It is prudent to get to know about the monsoon hazards and preventive measures lest we fall prey to these and add to the accident statistics. Aviation Safety Management Society of India (ASMSI) is conscious of the fact that the Pilots and Engineers manning Fixed Wing and Helicopter fleet are highly experienced, knowledgeable, professional and concerned about the flight safety. Nevertheless, ASMSI, would like to refresh the memory and cover important aspects, which needs to be kept in mind during monsoon flying. These are covered in succeeding paragraphs:-
7. Flying during monsoons particularly in Northeastern states, Western Ghats, Coastal & hilly areas demands total alertness on part of the aircrew.
8. It is very essential to plan the flight meticulously keeping in mind the Weather, Terrain, Runway, Helipad condition, Nav and Approach aids and availability of diversionary airfields/helipads. On number of occasions due to widespread thunderstorms; it may not be possible to reach your destination and even the diversionary airfield/helipad.
9. Early mornings, afternoons are more likely to have thunderstorms. Keep this aspect in mind.
10. Normally adverse phase of thunderstorms lasts around 30 Mts to 1 Hour but in the case of regenerating thunderstorms it may continue for hours. Study the weather conditions properly and plan your flights keeping the weather developments in mind.
11. Knowledge of terrain is very vital particularly during monsoons and adverse Wx Conditions.
12. Be current in instrument flying/simulator flying and know the limitation of Aircraft/Helicopter and your own limitations.
13. Ensure serviceability of your weather radar, wind screen wipers, nav aids, communication equipment, Radio Altimeter, ELT, flying instruments, nav and flashing beacons etc.
14. Brush up your knowledge about loss of Situational Awareness, Spatial Disorientation, prevention of CFIT, ALAR Kit. Be knowledgeable about use of Weather Radar and on board Nav and Landing Aids.
15. Carry out thorough preflight briefing covering the aspect of CRM, Terrain Awareness, weather conditions and contingency plans in case of adverse weather.
16. Never fly VFR in IFR conditions. Be vigilant while transiting from VFR to IFR and from IFR to VFR since chances of disorientation during these phases are high.
17. As far as possible avoid bad weather areas using weather radars and visual clues. If get caught unintentionally in bad weather, then do not press on. Return to your base, divert and if unable to continue, then find a suitable place and land (Helicopters). Don’t worry about the consequences of unplanned landing since Air Safety Circular 09 of 2013 permits landing by helicopter in such contingencies.
18. Do not get pressurized for any reason and take no chances with weather. Don’t hesitate to say NO regardless of pressures. Numbers of aircrew have lost their lives while taking chance with weather.
19. Most of the flying by helicopters is VFR. Ensure that flying is undertaken with ground contact. Keep a very sharp look out for obstructions like pylons, cables, TV towers, Communication poles/towers, high rise buildings, tall trees, hills, high ground etc. If forced to descend low due to clouds then reduce speed and keep a sharp look out for these obstructions. If unable to maintain safe height then it is better to land at suitable place then continue at low heights in poor visibility.
20. It is better to set personal minima’s for yourself, in terms of the height to which to descend, in order to remain in ground contact in case of low clouds and poor visibility. Flying below Minimum Safe Altitude is dangerous particularly during poor visibility conditions.
21. Flying in the hills is most dangerous during monsoons and great care must be exercised keeping in mind the obstructions, low clouds downdrafts/updrafts, aspect of wind conditions on the windward and leeward side of the hills, minimum height and crossing angle ( Minimum height 2000 ft and crossing angle 45 degrees while crossing hills).
22. Plan your flight so that you are out of the hills minimum one hour before sunset since hill shadows and poor visibility may lead to CFIT.
23. Maintain your route safety altitude and make full use of weather radars to detect, analyse and avoid weather.
24. Know about the location of obstructions and note down any obstructions seen for the first time for your records.
25. Offshore flying is very demanding during monsoons. Exercise special caution and take no chances with weather particularly during monsoons which are quite severe in the areas of offshore operations.
26. Trust your instruments and do not look outside while flying on instruments.Have good CRM in the cockpit. Remember the phenomenon of spatial disorientation and apply the knowledge about it intelligently.
27. With weather, no amount of experience or heroism works. Never be overconfident, respect weather and prepare well for your sortie. Do not press on regardless of weather even if you are highly experienced.
28.If you are fortunate to have Weather radar on your Aircraft/Helicopter, learn how to use it optimally. Number of accidents have occurred due to lack of weather radar related knowledge of the pilots.
29. Pilots should have good knowledge of the landing techniques on wet, contaminated runways, recognition and Go Around procedures in case of Wind Sheer, risk of hydroplaning, cross wind landing Techniques, essential aspects of stabilized approach and should never hesitate to go around if situation demands.
30. Use landing light with caution in case of rain/drizzle/poor vis during night.
31. Rain Water and high humidity during monsoons have adverse effects on electronics equipment and may lead to spurious warnings and degradation of the performance of the equipment. Ensure protection by parking inside hangars. Use suitable covers when parking in the Open.
32. Ensure that the Aircraft/Helicopter are properly sealed when parked. Danger of reptiles entering the Ac/helicopter are high during monsoons due flooding.
33. Birds are known to make nest in the areas of air intakes, exhaust and other available space on Aircraft/Helicopters even with in a very short duration. Carry out proper Checks.
34. Make sure that soft parts of the Aircraft/Helicopter like stabilizers/antennas etc are covered with proper covers to prevent damage due to hail storms.
35. Proper lashing of Aircraft/Helicopters is essential to prevent damage due to strong gusty wind conditions.
36. Ensure the bonding of Aircraft/Helicopter is intact to prevent lightning strikes.
37. Take great care during refueling lest water enters fuel tanks. Proper bonding during refueling needs no emphasis.
38. Kuchcha/grassy landing surface becomes soggy during rains. Ensure due caution during landing,parking. Wheels/skids getting stuck on wet surface may lead to dynamic roll over conditions. Skidding while fast taxying/turning is expected on wet surfaces. Exercise caution.
39. Ensure that the Aircraft/Helicopter are not parked in low lying areas which are prone to flooding, water logging specially in high rain density areas like Mumbai etc.
40. AMEs, Technicians to exercise due caution while servicing the Aircraft/Helicopter since chances of slipping are high due to wet surfaces.
41. Carry out special checks on parts/equipment which are likely to get affected due to rain water. Rusting of the parts is another hazard.
42. Although efforts have been made to include all the aspects related to monsoon flying yet there may be some points which might have been missed out. Operators, supervisors, aircrew, maintenance staff are requested to include those which have been missed out or are particularly applicable in their area of operations.
43. Let us all involve ourselves to ensure safe flying during monsoons.
All the best and happy landings.