According to the FAA, there are three major factors that affect helicopter performance. Those three factors are weight, density altitude, and wind. Since both density altitude and wind are affected by weather conditions, weather is a serious consideration when it comes to helicopter performance and safety. Weather may also restrict visibility and impact take-off and landing.
Before flying, pilots should consider weather conditions at the departure point and the destination. While weather conditions may be favorable at departure, dangerous conditions at the destination can be equally detrimental to flight safety.
Precipitation and Fog
Rain, snow, sleet, and fog may not affect helicopter performance, but they generally obstruct visibility. These conditions may make take-off and landing more difficult and affect a pilot’s ability to see obstacles that are encountered during flight. Rain, snow, and sleet may also make conditions on the tarmac or landing pad slippery, which can be problematic.
Freezing conditions can be extremely dangerous for helicopter flights, especially if humidity is high. Ice can form on the inside and outside of aircraft, changing the way that the equipment functions and potentially creating control problems. Humid air is also less dense, which can decrease aircraft performance.
Antifreeze solutions may be helpful if it’s necessary to fly in freezing conditions. Salt shouldn’t be used on landing bases, as it can be sucked into the engine and cause damage.
Wind is always present, so it’s important for pilots to understand how the wind affects flight and how to work with or counter winds during the course of a flight. Headwinds and crosswinds flow perpendicular to the flight path and slow the helicopter down. Tailwinds flow in the same direction as the flight path and speed the helicopter up, sometimes making it difficult for pilots to maintain control.
In stormy conditions, winds may be stronger than usual or may change course unexpectedly. This can jeopardize the safety of a flight, so pilots should consider waiting until storms pass to take off. Pilots should research wind direction and speed before flights to be adequately prepared.
Dealing with Adverse Conditions
While research and preparation are important for flight safety, adverse conditions can sometimes develop unexpectedly. Pilots should be sure to have proper helicopter insurance in place to protect equipment and help pay for injuries if minor accidents occur due to weather conditions. Pilots should also proactively train and study to learn more about dealing with adverse weather conditions to stay as safe as possible during each flight no matter what the weather brings.
If you are a helicopter pilot or are considering becoming a helicopter pilot, call Avion Insurance today to find out more about insuring your helicopter.