Plane safety Literature & Language Essay Research Paper (Essay Sample)
Academic report: atmospheric and weather effects on safety of flight
Amongst a myriad of factors and risk management concerns in the world of aviation, weather ranks at the top of the list. Within the subject of weather, pilots must continuously collect and interpret information to make the best decision during all phases of flight. What is the weather now? What will it be in the future? Should I continue or terminate the flight? These are just some of the aviation weather related questions pilots must continuously ask themselves. Pilots are not meteorologists but are expected to have a sound understanding of weather phenomena and the effects it may have on their flight. A flight in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) can quickly change to one in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). This can abruptly change the dynamics of flying operations and its associated factors such as performance and task saturation. From fog to thunderstorms and wind to ice, pilots must be well versed and acquainted with their environment and the weather associated with it. This situational awareness affords pilots valuable time to anticipate and react to weather events. Indeed, making the decision to continue or turn around upon encountering unfavorable weather can mean the difference between a safe flight or an accident.
Keywords: accident, aviation, environment, flight, phenomena, thunderstorms, weather
Report: Kauai Helicopter Tour Crash
Kauai, the northernmost island of Hawaii, also known as the “Garden Isle” is home to some of the most scenic landscapes in the world. From tall mountains such as Mount Waialeale, which is one of the wettest places in the world averaging 450 inches of rain a year, to the deep fissures that make up Waimea Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Kauai has it all. (Britannica, 2011). Kauai’s diverse topography also gives way to a variety of microclimates: temperate regions, as well as dry sand dune complexes exists along the coast, while wet tropical conditions persist inland along the mountain valleys simultaneously within the island’s 552 square miles. (University of Hawaii, 2013).
The Pacific trade winds and Kauai’s topography give way to variations in cloud formation and precipitation along different regions of the island. (Garza, J., Chu, P., Norton, C., & Schroeder, T., 2012). As the trade winds blow across the island’s central mountain range, moisture is trapped and quickly rises, forming a concentrated area of precipitation. (Garza et al., 2012). Along the coast, sea breeze and sea breeze fronts are prevalent as the cool air over the ocean flows towards the warmer land. This heating and rising of air produces a line cumuliform clouds, while the steep and varying coastal cliffs increase convective development and eventually thunderstorms, through a phenomenon called convergence. (FAA, 2016).
One of the most popular and efficient ways to view Kauai’s landscape is by air through helicopter tours. Kauai’s varying topography and climate presents a unique challenge to aviation. Rapid changes in weather can adversely affect flying operations along different regions of the island. This case study seeks to explain the September 23, 2005 helicopter tour crash on Kauai by analyzing the unique challenges of flying in this diverse area in relation to weather and the contributing factors revolving the flight of N355NT.
On September 23, 2005, an Aerospatiale AS350BA helicopter worked by Heli-USA collided with the Pacific Ocean off the northern coast of Kauai while conducting a sightseeing tour of the island. (NTSB, 2007). The helicopter operated by a commercial pilot, along with five passengers took off from Lihue Airport at 1354 local time and subsequently crashed into the ocean at 1415 local after encountering adverse weather. (NTSB, 2007). Three passengers died, while the pilot and two other passengers were injured. (NTSB, 2007).
The pilot held a commercial helicopter rating with a total of 2,814 hours, of which 334 were in the make and model of the accident aircraft. (NTSB, 2007). The pilot did not hold an instrument rating at the time of the incident and was limited to Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and provisions regulated by Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 71, which includes certain rules and requirements for air tours in Hawaii. (NTSB, 2007). The pilot recently moved to Kauai from Las Vegas and completed his check-ride in Kauai with Heli-USA on August 7, 2005, 51 days before the accident. (NTSB, 2007).
Weather varied greatly between the takeoff airport and accident location. N355NT took off from Lihue Airport, approximately 20 miles from the accident site. The only official National Weather Service station on island is at Lihue and consists of an Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS). (NTSB, 2007). The weather reported during takeoff reported winds from the East at 9 knots, unrestricted visibility, and few clouds at 1,500 feet. (NTSB, 2007The zone estimate for the island of Kauai included, "… dissipated mists at 2,000 feet, roofs broken to cloudy at 3,500 feet with tops to 12,000 feet, transitory roofs under 3,000 feet in cumulonimbus mists with tops to 40,000 feet, and perceivability under 3 miles in tempests and substantial downpour." (NTSB, 2007, p. 5)
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