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toy balloons over airport


gadoid
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The other day as I was preparing to depart, I noticed a toy balloon floating across the airport toward me. It looks like the balloon had been deliberately released by a child and had a string with a note attached to it. I am guessing it was released somewhere else and just happened to come down over an airport. Not wanting to find out what would happen if it got sucked through through rotor, I maneuvered away from it. Has anyone ever ingested something like that through their rotors? Is there a potential for damage to the rotors from a small light object like that? Not wanting to find out, I treated it as a threat, but now wondering if I was overly cautious.

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we landed an ems helicopter in a dry river bed here in Arizona... unfortunately the river bed collects trash and debris, specially where this LZ was because we were in the ghetto of course... anyways, long story short, upon landing, the rotor down wash kicked up an empty plastic grocery bag. helo is now on the ground in medium idle as we are unloading the crew and equipment to care for our patient. grocery bag did a few loopdeloops in the air and then got sucked down into the blades from the top right above the cockpit. the rotors went from a nice high pitched turbine idle fan sound to a very beefy thwopping..... (for lack of a better term)... it got loud too so there was no way that no one heard it... pilot shut it down... rotors stopped and got out. basically the bag had almost completely desintregrated to nothing anywhere. there was about a 6 inch piece of plastic, now with almost a straw consistancy that was now in a U shape that was removed from the blade with no damage left behind. they started back up and loaded the patient and left... no problems...

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Almost exact thing as Yamer has happened to me. Picked up a grocery bag in a 206. Just was really loud and a slight vibration for a little bit. Taxied back to the ramp, shut her down and removed the bag which by that point had almost desinegrated.

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A balloon or a plastic bag in the main probably won't do much, but the t/r, I think that would be a horse of a different color. I was recently being slated to do a game ball delivery and thinking a similar question. What if on takeoff or landing in the stadium a fan let go of a bunch of helium balloons right into my t/r ?

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bag&blade.jpg

 

 

Good post, i personally know of three incidents of bags hitting blades, one of the important things i have learned is that most likely they will do no harm and it's best to not over react when you see them coming (much like smaller birds).

 

The first time it happened i didn't see the impact, but heard the 300c coming in on final and it sounded like it was coming apart, the roar was loud enough i could hear the difference for at least a couple of football fields away. The bag hit the helo on final above some hangars and the two CFIs on board landed it as soon as it was possible. The said they saw the impact and heard the noise but there was no effect on the controls or even a vibration. The noise was loud until shutdown and the photo here is what was left of the bag.

 

The other time was another 300 on the ramp and the bag came over the hangar and right into the blades, also the main, same deal here. In both cases the helos were shut down and inspected by an A&P immediately. There were no issues at all.

 

The guy that owns the EC120 that i used to fly landed it next to a dumpster by the hangar once and the downwash blew the lids up a bit (something else to remember), some trash flew out and went through the Fenestron, a plastic bag and some loose paper, it made some loud noise but kept right on going and didn't effect it at all. During the factory course for that aircraft they showed us some videos of them testing the Fenestron, it was amazing, they threw stuff into it, including a cantaloupe i think, even dunked it in water running full speed, it just kept right on working.

 

As far as balloons i'm not sure, i expect the string might be an issue if there was enough of it??? On a pipeline inspection last week we flew thru DIA's airspace and across their runways, just north of the final approach on one of them i noticed a parachute with a white box attached in the grass on our route, we couldn't stop to check it out cuz they wanted us OUT of their way and the airport was getting busy. the parachute looked to be about three feet in diameter and orange, the box was about 8" square, the whole length was about eight feet.. it looked scientific, not like a toy, kinda made me wonder what would have happened if we would have hit that.

 

dp

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i would think that it would shred the string if not more just like the grocery bags... if for some reason you caught a balloon, if anything i'd be worried about the consistency being so elastic that it might hold together better than a bag causing a bigger vibration.

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A balloon or a plastic bag in the main probably won't do much, but the t/r, I think that would be a horse of a different color. I was recently being slated to do a game ball delivery and thinking a similar question. What if on takeoff or landing in the stadium a fan let go of a bunch of helium balloons right into my t/r ?

You would very likely have a bunch of balloons in your tail rotor. If I were you, I would be extra vigilant for anyone appearing to have a loose grasp on a bunch of balloons on the recon.

Edited by helonorth
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What about weather balloons that are let go by the national weather service? Aren't these let go at airports? I was talking to a lady that works for the NWS and she said in SLC they release them twice a day along with other locations around the USA.

 

Has anyone ever seen one of these or know more about them? I sure would hate to hit one...

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/vef/kids/wxballoon.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_balloon

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Weather balloons are big and black, easy to see, and they use some discretion about waiting for a lull in traffic before releasing them. Keep an eye out anyway, as you should always do. I've seen a lot of balloons, both weather and party, and I've always been able to avoid them. So far so good.

 

Grocery bags make a lot of noise, but I've never heard of any damage caused by one, or by balloons. Kite strings, OTOH, are a different thing altogether. They can hurt you.

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