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Migrating North

Migratory Birds by the Numbers
                                                                                                                                  J. Heffernan 

Remember all those birds you so carefully avoided in the spring? Well, they’re back and they are headed in the opposite direction.  And remember how you marked all the places they landed and fields where they congregated to eat? That was spring and this is now.  They eat different things in the fall and stop in different places because the food supply is different, and the ponds are different sizes or dried up watching a migrating bird try to land without a water runway is not pretty at all.  Think of a crash ending in a big ball of dust.
So how do I, the intrepid young aviator protect myself from literally thousands of migratory birds? And remember, they are all at or around my altitude, going to or from destinations they didn’t consult me about, operating in an airspace system they own and control. Here is the answer to your prayers; “there’s an APP for that.” In fact, there are lots of apps and almost too much information for you to wade through. Google migratory bird information and before you hit enter, take a step back because the information is going to come out of your computer like a Tsunami.
There are going to be flyway maps including times. Routes, general altitudes, specific stopover positions, birds that use the flyways by type, and all sorts of general knowledge about operating in and around birds. But you also must reeducate yourself on things you know about flying.

1. Protect yourself. Spend the money and get your aircraft a forward-facing flashing light so that you can get the attention of birds that are closing with you in the opposite direction. Google the type and probably several recommended brands for your aircraft.

2. Remember the old fighter pilot’s trick and be careful, “It’s extremely hard to see you when you are coming out of the sun”. When are you likely to be coming out of the sun? Anytime you have an altitude advantage on the birds, especially if you are headed WEST after sunrise or EAST before sunset.

3. Birds are difficult to see in the dark, they don’t have position lights or tail beacons.  In low illumination conditions, you may not notice birds even when using NVG equipment.

4. Because of the differences in speed, your closure rate can overcome the bird before it has a chance to evade you, and there is always the chance in a split-second evasive maneuver that the bird turns into your path rather than away.

5. If you startle a bird (especially ducks) their natural tendency is to fold their wings and drop, relying on gravity to take them out of harm’s way.

6. Altitude is your friend. Anything above 2000 AGL lessens your chances of an unplanned bird encounter.

7. And last but by far most important. VISOR DOWN, your choice during daylight, but CLEAR VISOR as a minimum at night. Protect your eyes, no exceptions!
There you have it, Migratory Birds by the Numbers.
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Vortex Ring State,
Wake Turbulence and Rotor Wash

                                                                                                                     Stan Rose  

The first time I saw this video it had been edited down to only show the part where the MI-8 started settling and landed hard on the runway. It looked like a classic vortex ring state (VRS) or settling with power, and it was hard to imagine why the pilot did not “fly out of it” when it seemed like s/he had plenty of time to recognize the problem before impacting the surface at a high rate of descent.
Their are two favored methods of recovery from VRS but when you watch the entire video you might see that there was more to this accident. The helicopter was flying a banner from a cable below the aircraft. Once they dropped the banner, the ship flew backward in level flight before dropping the nose slightly and descending for landing.
I believe that, in addition to the apparent VRS, the aircraft got caught in additional disturbed air from its own wake turbulence. There may have been nowhere to go to remedy the situation. Admittedly, this is pure speculation on my part but there is a lot of good work being done on this subject by 
a recently formed Helicopter Wake Turbulence Safety Group. Here is an article by AOPA with more information, Pilots Push for Helicopter Wake-Turbulence Awareness.

The lesson to be learned here is that rotor wash and wake turbulence can have effects that last longer than we think. Please be aware that the hazard is there even if you can’t see it!
...adding power (raising collective) can unexpectedly increase the descent rate...
Robinson Helicopter Company Safety Notice SN-22 does a great job of describing the two methods of recovering from VRS. The edited version of what they say is…A vertical or steep approach, particularly downwind, can cause the rotor to fly into its own downwash. This condition is known as vortex ring state due to the vortices that develop as the downwash is recirculated through the rotor disk. Once a vortex ring state exists, adding power (raising collective) can unexpectedly increase the descent rate due to the increase in downwash recirculating through the rotor.
Maximum engine power may not be enough to stop the descent before a hard landing occurs. To avoid a vortex ring state, reduce the rate of descent before reducing airspeed. A good rule to follow is never allow your airspeed to be less than 30 knots until your rate of descent is less than 300 feet per minute.
If a vortex ring state is inadvertently encountered, two recovery techniques are available. One technique involves reducing collective pitch (to reduce downwash), lowering the nose to fly forward out of the downwash, and then applying recovery power. This can result in significant altitude loss which may not be acceptable on an approach.

A second technique known as the Vuichard recovery involves applying recovery power while moving the helicopter sideways, assisted by tail rotor thrust, out of the downwash. When flown properly, the Vuichard recovery produces minimal altitude loss. Pilots should always be aware of wind conditions and plan descents to avoid a vortex ring state. Training should emphasize recognition and avoidance of vortex ring state and include instruction in both recovery techniques.

September Safety Meeting Outline
        I have always felt that I was a “lucky guy!”               Stan Rose    

Things often seem to go my way and I am often at the right place at the right time. I heard a definition of luck the other day that seems to put it in a better perspective. It goes, “LUCK is when preparation meets opportunity.”  Isn’t that why we have safety meetings? No one can predict what piece of safety information will make a difference in our operations today so we continuously feed ourselves knowledge and talk about our experiences so that we might just have the right piece of information at the right time to prevent an accident. 

This column provides topics and reference materials
to use as a basis for discussion in your safety meetings.
Regular conversations about risks and how to mitigate them lead to safer operations.

Contact HSA for help with your monthly safety meetings.

Fall is here and change is in the air

Fall is definitely my favorite time of year! Last night I sat out on my porch and looked at a clear night sky that was full of stars, felt the chill of a gentle breeze, and read the forecast for a warm day tomorrow. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, I have not put the shorts away but I am keeping a jacket handy in the car.

At the same time, there is a hurricane working its way up the East Coast from Florida and the high and low temperatures for each day are becoming more variable. This summer has seen stable and predictable weather but things are starting to change.
Temperature changes can be dramatic so pay attention to the performance charts

Density altitude is determined by first finding pressure altitude and then correcting this altitude for nonstandard temperature variations. Since density varies directly with pressure, and inversely with temperature, a given pressure altitude may exist for a wide range of temperatures by allowing the density to vary. 
The density of the air, of course, has a pronounced effect on aircraft and engine performance. Regardless of the actual altitude at which the aircraft is operating, it will perform as though it were operating at an altitude equal to the existing density altitude.

A Change of Seasons
Seasonal changes are a boon to weather educators because theres always something to discuss.
Just as you were getting used to summer weather, autumn arrives.
The most immediate change that meteorologists and pilots see in the weather pattern is an increase in the tropospheric flow across the United States and southern Canada at all levels. 
This starts in earnest in September and continues through October. Temperatures decrease rapidly in the polar regions as fall progresses, dramatically strengthening temperature contrasts between high latitudes and the tropics. This enhances the jet stream pattern and surface patterns alike. So across the board we see an increase in clear air and mechanical turbulence everywhere.

Survival Skills PowerPoint - Pack up your cold-weather survival stuff
I consider a survival kit to be essential in the winter, plus a good winter sleeping bag and insulated sleeping pad for each occupant. I also carry a minimal selection of survival items on my person, in the event I have to depart the plane in a hurry. 
If you “arrive” somewhere off airport it may take a while for help to come. I consider a good knife, fire starters, a signal mirror, and some parachute cord to be an absolute minimum kit to carry on one’s person.

Winter Flying
By Michael Vivion
With careful preparation, cold-weather flying can be great fun.
Watch out for migrating birds

Planes four times as likely to hit birds during migrations
The risk of airplanes colliding with birds jumps by as much as 400% during periods of migration, according to new research from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and partners, who have been looking for patterns in bird-strike data from three New York City-area airports. “Out of all the bird strikes recorded at Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia airports during a six-year period, the highest number occurred during migration, especially during the fall, ...

FAA Wildlife Strike Database
Wildlife strikes with aircraft are increasing in the United States and elsewhere. The number of wildlife strikes reported per year to the FAA increased steadily from about 1,800 in 1990 to 16,000 in 2018. Expanding wildlife populations, increases in number of aircraft movements, a trend toward faster and quieter aircraft, and outreach to the aviation community all have contributed to the observed increase in reported wildlife strikes. As a result of the increase in wildlife strikes, there has been greater emphasis on wildlife strike hazard research and airfield wildlife management.

For over two decades, the FAA and USDA have conducted a concerted effort to collect accurate data on wildlife strikes to better understand the scope and nature of the problem. These strike data provide a scientific foundation for management programs to mitigate risk. A major part of collecting the data is providing the general public with an easy way to submit strike reports in a consistent format. This continues to be accomplished through the use of the FAA’s wildlife hazard mitigation website ( and the FAA’s Wildlife Strike Database.

Safety doesn't happen by accident. Safety happens by working together.
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Alliance Member Update
                                                                                                    John Gibson 

To reduce barriers to safety HSA does not charge for Membership or to attend HSA Helicopter Safety Seminars. If you have attended an HSA Helicopter Safety Seminars or subscribed to HSA SafetyReview
you are a Member of the Helicopter Safety Alliance.

Scheduled Helicopter Safety Seminars

Dec 02, 2022 – Albuquerque, Bob Martin Helicopter Safety Day

Coming Soon
2023 Schedule Helicopter Safety Seminars

Helicopter Wake Turbulence
Raising Awareness
The Helicopter Safety Alliance is working with the Helicopter Wake Turbulence Safety Group mentioned above in Stan Rose's article on Vortex Ring State. Here are a couple of links to videos that help illustrate the need for the effort to raise awareness.
Here is a link to Bruce Webb's new podcast "Push to Talk" in which he interviews Ned Parks about Ned's work to bring the problem to aviation's attention. It's worth a listen.
Participate in the Helicopter Safety Alliance
Miriam Webster defines an alliance as an association to further the members' common interests. Our common interest is in helicopter safety. HSA encourages you to share your helicopter safety stories with other HSA members. You can do this by writing for HSA SafetyReview, presenting at an HSA Helicopter Safety Seminar, or being a guest on Helicopter SafetyTalk. If you are interested, please click here to send us an email and tell us how you would like to volunteer.

HSA is also looking for photographs of Alliance Members at work with helicopters. If you have one that we might use in HSA SafetyReview or on the HSA website please send it along with the name of the photographer and a short description.


This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division MD-500 rigged for fish stocking. Used to stock remote lakes, primarily with trout.
Thanks to Conservation Officer Pilot Jason Jensen for the photo

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Safety doesn't happen by accident. Safety happens by working together.
In this issue bird silhouette Image by NACreative</a> on Freepik

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