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Wire Avoidance Systems... Improved?


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Wow it has been entirely too long since I have had time to post here. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe out there.

 

My current topic comes from some recent vacations where I have seen more and more of those bright orange/red balls suspended on power lines. (for anyone unsure of what I mean:)405416842_fee122407d.jpg

 

So here is my inquiry, these work extremely well of day marking of power lines, especially where long runs might not allow a pilot to see a lit tower when in close proximity to the line itself. So if these simple plactice spheres have saved live (and I believe they have) why not have a clear version with an obstruction beacon suspend inside to make these lines visible in the dusk and night hours? The real question here I guess is does anyone think this idea is reasonable, is there something out there that I don't know about that serves this purpose, and how do you currently deal with long lines in the dark?

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With nvgs becoming so prevalent a cheaper and easier solution is to just add reflective tape to the existing balls. That stuff lights up like its on fire.

great thought! I hadn't considered NVGs being adapted but definitely an awesome idea.
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All roads have wires. The wires that really need to be marked (and lighted at night) are the ones that are not noticeable by their non association with features that normally indicate wire presence.

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All roads have wires.

 

All RTs have aircraft.

 

All roads have wires.

 

Until they come up with some cheap paint that glows when charged by the electricity running through the wires I don't think you'll see too many lit up balls. Even if they did come up with the money to install them they would still have to maintain them, which would mean they would have to hire someone to go out and change them every once in a while. There are just too many wires out there for that.

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Until they come up with some cheap paint that glows when charged by the electricity running through the wires I don't think you'll see too many lit up balls. Even if they did come up with the money to install them they would still have to maintain them, which would mean they would have to hire someone to go out and change them every once in a while. There are just too many wires out there for that.

 

Ok, so new(ish) idea bouncing back off of what SBuzzKill said (they don't call him that for nothing.) While expensive for sure, would it be possible for some type of Forward Looking Safety Device to detect the signature of power lines. This isn't a perfect solution but every power line has enough external output of radiant electrical impulses to form a signature if a device was made to look into that frequency range and translate its returns into either a proximity image display or active audio feedback device, you might be able to create a 3D mapping image or all wire obstacles, however this would not work on low voltage TV and Communication lines.

 

At the end of the day we have to face the truth:

 

Put Down the NVGs

Put Down the Safety Books

Put Down the Crazy Ideas

Put Down the New Technology

Pick Up your head... The best safety devices ever designed are owned by every man, woman, and child from the day they are born... USE YOUR EYES.

 

"Prepare and prevent, don't repair and repent."

Edited by Auto-Rotation-Nation
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Put down the NVG's ? Unless you are good at rapidly recognizing cues associated with wires, even in the daytime they are difficult to impossible to see. Especially with some sun angles. Familiarity with the terrain and geography can help, but nothing keep wires, and/or towers being put up overnight. Let alone nighttime. If you wanted me to avoid all wires at night unaided in an unfamiliar area, I'm not positive I could do it.

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Technology is great, but usually costly/cost prohibitive and non standardized. Putting up balls by utilities is usually regarded as admitting liability by them. Anyways, I could only imagine what the view from home (and on the way to/from ) would look like if wires all were marked. Then, what about the one that was missed and was struck? The medium and big structures are rarely the problem...it's the lower level stuff (>90% of the strikes occur below 50'). A LOT more that I'm not going to get into - I could write another thesis on the subject.

 

Get to Bob Feerst's class on Flying in the Wire Environment; not just an infomative class, but an inexpensive survival course.

 

Hmmm, I wonder why I sign off with:

 

-WATCH FOR THE PATTERNS, WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

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So if these simple plactice spheres have saved live (and I believe they have) why not have a clear version with an obstruction beacon suspend inside to make these lines visible in the dusk and night hours?

 

 

While expensive for sure, would it be possible for some type of Forward Looking Safety Device to detect the signature of power lines. This isn't a perfect solution but every power line has enough external output of radiant electrical impulses to form a signature if a device was made to look into that frequency range and translate its returns into either a proximity image display or active audio feedback device.

 

At the end of the day we have to face the truth:

 

Pick Up your head... The best safety devices ever designed are owned by every man, woman, and child from the day they are born... USE YOUR EYES.

 

 

There’s really no pressing mandate to go beyond the present solutions of “Training & Avoidance’, for what the FAA refers to as a “catenary hazard.”

 

For years solar powered LED lighted marker balls and electromagnetic field detectors, for the cockpit, have been available. Utilities and Civil Operators don’t always look forward to the additional cost and agree with the present training and avoidance measures too. So, for the time being, that’s the plan.

 

Solar-powered, illuminated aircraft warning marker for connection to suspended cables and overhead transmission lines includes a polygonal housing having a plurality oflight elements attached to different sides of the housing. The warning marker includes solar cells, storage batteries and electrical circuit apparatus for selectively illuminating the light elements during low ambient light and nighttime conditions.

SOLAR POWERED AIRCRAFT WARNING DEVICE

 

SpanLite Self Illuminated Light

 

Safeflight.com - Electromagnetic field detectors for the cockpit

Edited by iChris
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My experience is that the balls are very hard to see against a busy background, if not invisible. They do mark wires well if you're on the ground looking up. I suspect this would be so even if illuminated. Never seen any of the sensing systems mentioned except in ads in media.

My experience is also that you don't see wires until you're dangerously close, and they don't provide good depth cues to judge distance. I use the line of poles for horizontal range and the line itself only for vertical. There's often a 'static' wire above the conductors that's uncharged.

 

Until somebody designs, produces and widely deploys (very, very wide distribution) some system the best safety is training. Until you've checked and assured yourself that there are no lines anywhere they could possibly be, avoid the airspace. You probably won't see wires themselves, so look for right of way and support structures, and regard all streets and roads as having parallel AND cross wires, because it will be so at some fatal point. Intersections and over/underpasses always, always have wires. Don't be casual around antenna masts either, the stay/guy wires especially unforgiving.

If you have to land off-airport, regard the proposed area as covered in wires and keep looking all the way to the ground. A ground recon is in order, I carry a rechargeable zillion candlepower flood for night recons. I've seen unmarked wires cross considerable expanses of 'open' field with no supports or visible right of way to some obscure feature that needed power or whatever. Yeah, it's not how we did it Vietnam and it looks goofy, but vertical in and out is the safest technique, and I usually fly the same track in and out at night because I just reconned it on the approach.

 

I'd rather take fire than come out from under my NVGs...

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At the end of the day we have to face the truth:

 

Put Down the NVGs

Put Down the Safety Books

Put Down the Crazy Ideas

Put Down the New Technology

Pick Up your head... The best safety devices ever designed are owned by every man, woman, and child from the day they are born... USE YOUR EYES.

 

"Prepare and prevent, don't repair and repent."

 

Nicely put. I like the discussions about new technology (look at GPS) but in the end, common sense must prevail!

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You can have all the technology in the world and still hit wires. We have extensive hazard maps of the area and they are loaded into the aircraft, but even with all that a friend of mine was flying an Apache down a river and ended up hitting a ferry cable. He was able to land the aircraft in a nearby field but sadly his IP in the front seat was fatally injured. No use in taking unnecessary risks especially in a low level environment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Great discussion and great points all around. The basic markerballs themselves are cheap, its the installation and upkeep thats expensive. The solar/ lighted ones would have to be zero maintenace to fly.

 

As others said, they can be really hard to say with a busy background. Bob Feerst's course explains all of that, I've seen it several times.

 

What do you guys think of OCAS?

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OCAS looks wonderful, but I suspect that it will be deployed even less often than marker balls which are freakin' exceptional.

I just had a meeting for which I was a half an hour late because several on-line references were dated and inacccurate... So, no, I'm not happy about database dependent systems either. Avoid the places where wires, etc. might be: and if you can't operate with the certain knowledge they are, with an escape route and profile to minimize damage if you can't bug out.

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http://www.tc.faa.gov/its/worldpac/techrpt/ar0825.pdf

 

Tuomela and Brennan [1 and 2] analyzed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports of 208 civil helicopter wire strike accidents for a 10-year period (1970-1979). In these accidents, 37 people lost their lives, 52 people suffered serious injury, 88 aircraft (42%) were destroyed, and 120 aircraft (58%) were damaged substantially. They concluded that some form of pilot warning device would have been beneficial in 76% of the accidents, and that wire cutters would have been effective in 49% of the accidents examined. In addition, pilot training would have been effective in 56% of the accidents. They recommended that pilot training, installation of wire cutters, use of a device to warn the pilot of wires in the flight path, and provisions to protect the main and tail rotor blades from damage due to wire strikes would be beneficial.Tuomela and Brennan [1 and 2] analyzed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports of 208 civil helicopter wire strike accidents for a 10-year period (1970-1979). In these accidents, 37 people lost their lives, 52 people suffered serious injury, 88 aircraft (42%) were destroyed, and 120 aircraft (58%) were damaged substantially. They concluded that some form of pilot warning device would have been beneficial in 76% of the accidents, and that wire cutters would have been effective in 49% of the accidents examined. In addition, pilot training would have been effective in 56% of the accidents. They recommended that pilot training, installation of wire cutters, use of a device to warn the pilot of wires in the flight path, and provisions to protect the main and tail rotor blades from damage due to wire strikes would be beneficial.

Edited by SBuzzkill
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