Aiming Higher

Magazine department.
Photo of a helicopter over a flock of birds.
  • Learning about the local bird population and using that knowledge to safely plan and fly a route. Key considerations include seasonal migratory times and concentration patterns within an operating area.
  • Reducing airspeed when practical. Three out of four bird strikes (77%) occur during operations with airspeeds greater than 80 knots. When operating rotorcraft in areas of high bird concentrations, the likelihood of a damaging bird strike increases with airspeed. Fly at 80 knots or less, particularly at lower altitudes.
  • Increasing altitude as quickly as practical. The likelihood of a bird strike drops 32% for every 1,000 feet gained above 500 feet above ground level. Also, birds fly higher at night, so increase your altitude even more than during the day to try to avoid them.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). A helmet and visor, at least for the crew, should be worn when practical.
  • Using crash resistant fuel bladders in the fuel tanks. Designs incorporating fuel bladders made from crash resistant materials, even if no certification credit was received by the installer, have been shown to reduce fuel leaks after an accident.
  • Fuel systems that comply with the subset of regulations in the congressional mandate codified in Title 49 USC section 44737 (helicopter fuel system safety) are very effective in preventing post-crash fires.
  • Full compliance to latest amendment of Title 14 part 27 or 29 for fuel systems (sections 27.952, 27.963, 27.967, 27.973, and 27.975) assures the highest level of protection from post-crash fires in helicopters.
  • Minimizing crash-induced fuel leaks, typically through installation of crash-resistant bladders and reduction of puncture hazards to these bladders.
  • Minimizing fuel contact with potential fuel ignition sources during and after a crash.
  • Increasing the time occupants have to get out of the helicopter before a post-crash fire.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.



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FAA Safety Briefing

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).