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Why Do You Do Clearing Turns?

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The pilot who was killed was a friend, but I didn’t take Phil’s post as being accusatory. As for assumptions, I think it’s safe to assume that they didn’t come into contact with one another on purpose, so one or both of them made errors. One died for it, and the other gets to feel like crap for the rest of his life. That’s the beautiful thing about accidents – everyone gets to feel like ####.


The other interesting thing about accidents is that they provide learning opportunities for the rest of us, and if that is your goal, the actual events can be irrelevant. Maybe he did do a clearing turn but didn’t see the other machine, maybe his radio died, maybe the other guy’s radio died, maybe someone stepped on the transmission – it doesn’t matter.


An example from a recent accident I attended in Lexington, Kentucky: A CRJ 200 attempted to take off from the wrong runway, which proved to be of inadequate length. They went off the end, hit a tree, exploded, and 50-odd folks were killed.


From the beginning, there was speculation about the pilots, ATC, the FAA, the Airport Authority, the janitor etc. – all hearsay and all useless. What wasn’t useless, however, was the FACT that they had attempted to take off from the wrong runway. Upon analysing that fact, several astute organizations (including the one I work for) immediately implemented a mandatory aircraft / runway heading crosscheck before starting the take-off roll. The actual events of the ComAir accident didn’t matter.


That was my read on Phil’s post, and I added another ‘gotcha’ on the next page. Actual events notwithstanding, the FACT that there was a mid-air between two helicopters, one with a longline, at a refuelling area, can reinforce the following:


1. Clearing turns are essential

2. Good airmanship and radio protocols are a vital part of multi-aircraft operations.

3. Test radio volumes at every start with the squelch function

4. Never assume contact has been made unless you get a relevant reply

5. Exercise extreme caution when working around other aircraft, especially with a slung load


Be well.

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