‘Life jackets only under certain circumstances’
by Joanna Yap, email@example.com. Posted on July 24, 2012, Tuesday
KUCHING: Helicopter crew and passengers are only required to wear life jackets if the aircraft is travelling over water for a prolonged period of time.
Hornbill Skyways director of flight operations Capt Mohd Hassan Suman told The Borneo Post yesterday that the regulation was that if the helicopter was travelling a certain distance from land, it was compulsory for the crew and passengers to wear life jackets.
“In fact, passengers are required to put on their life jackets before boarding the helicopter.
“Pilots must also fly within authoritative distance, which is the height and distance required to enable the helicopter to reach land in case of engine failure when flying over water. If the aircraft flies too low relative to the distance, it will not have enough time to land safely.
“This means that the further away from land the helicopter travels, the higher it has to fly, but bear in mind that helicopters can only fly so high as they must maintain a certain altitude.”
When asked to comment on the chance of survival for a helicopter crash landing on water, Captain Mohd Hassan replied that in cases of an emergency or planned landing on water, a pilot would normally try to create a controlled descent at a low speed so that there is enough time for crew and passengers to open the doors to jump to safety.
A water landing at fast speed will have virtually the same impact as hitting the ground.
Based on his knowledge and 36 years of experience, Mohd Hassan observed that most incidences of helicopter crashes were due to weather conditions.
“There are two categories of rules which pilots must follow. One is instrument flight rules where the pilot relies on instruments to navigate the aircraft, meaning that they can fly in most weather conditions and even at night.
“The other one is visual flight rules where the pilot can only fly the aircraft when they can establish visual contact with their surroundings.
“If poor visibility due to weather does not permit flying, if they are already in the air, they will have to land and can only resume flight once visibility is good.”
He pointed out that flying over water in bad weather while using visual flight rules is very risky as the pilot might get disorientated by the poor visibility, and, thus, might experience vertigo.
“Furthermore, if the pilot is flying the aircraft low to maintain visual contact, he might underestimate the distance when turning.”