A Plan for Reducing Wire Strike Accidents

Posted Friday, June 14 2013 as Industry News

Powerline sensors, HTAWS and specialized training can significantly lower helo collision rate with cables.

Most helicopter missions are flown at very low altitudes, and powerlines are often nearly invisible to pilots. Specific training in the “wires environment,”  proper crew resource management and technology can all lessen the threat of an accident.

Wire strikes are a serious threat to helicopter safety. Ranked as a leading cause of rotorcraft accidents worldwide, power lines claim on average 2 helicopters every week. Any aircraft operating below 1000 ft is vulnerable to a wire strike—and, since most helicopter missions involve prolonged flight at low altitudes,
the risk is particularly high for this segment. 

Government and industry safety organizations support a multilayered strategy to combat this threat. Mitigation strategies include training, awareness and technology, both airborne and on the ground. 

The threat of wire strike accidents increases daily. In the US alone, the web of power lines covers 4.5 million miles and is growing. Industry and consumers around the world have an ever-increasing appetite for power and connectivity. To satisfy this demand, utility companies are building continually on vast networks of wires, towers and new technologies such as wind turbines. Like a spider web, this growing network silently awaits its prey.

FAA, NTSB and industry studies identify wire strikes as a factor in roughly 5% of all rotorcraft accidents. For civilian aircraft, decade to decade, this rate is highly consistent, although since 1996 these accidents are becoming more deadly.

For the rotorcraft industry, wire strike accidents are very troubling—the threat is hard to see, the accidents are often fatal, and in every case it either substantially damages or destroys the aircraft. Utilities/Aviation Specialists Pres Robert Feerst, an expert in wire strike prevention, says, “At typical...

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