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"The TC Turn!"

How to improve your chances of survival in a wire strike situation

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Back in the early eighties, a young pilot had an horrific accident in a Hiller UH12E while spraying a wheat crop in a paddock surrounded by trees - which had a 3 wire high tension power line passing through it.

It was the oldest story in the Ag pilots' book - he knew the wire was there - but momentarily forgot about it when he dived down over the tree line to finish off some remaining chemical in the tank.

At 60 Kts, just as he switched on the spray, the helicopter impacted with the wire on the right hand skid upright, ripping the wire from one of the poles. The wire flicked back and tore off the complete tail rotor assembly and a third of the rear tail-boom, throwing it all up through the rotor blades, tearing about a meter off the end of each M/Rotor blade.

The pilot knew he had a problem when the machine hit the wire and pitched down, becoming inverted and starting to rotate rapidly around the main rotor mast like a Catherine wheel (Chinese fire work). Witnesses were impressed with how far the white chemical spray was flung out by centrifugal forces as the yellow inverted helicopter whizzed round and round.

After traveling quite some distance due to inertia and shedding bits and pieces due the vibrations, the helicopter came down and hit the ground inverted, broke the main rotor hub and mast off and completely disintegrated the Perspex bubble. It then bounced back into the air and came down tail first, compressing the tail-boom up into the engine bay. For some reason, it then stayed stuck in the ground - half the engine buried - looking all the world like a primitive space shuttle waiting to take off as the shocked pilot sat still strapped in his seat hanging grimly onto the controls but now looking up at the sky!

The pilot was treated for shock and was fortunate to have no physical injuries.


I flew into the crash site about 20 minutes later to lift the wreck out and - while incredulously looking at the scene - figured that there had to be a way to reduce wire strikes other than traditional methods. After more than a couple of beers in the pub that night I had it all figured out.

Since then I have taught the following method ("The TC Turn") and have been rewarded by many pilots contacting me with news of their success and occasionally showing me the wire that they had cut through.

In fact, not long ago, an old mate showed me the $48,000 account he received from an energy authority for replacing a wire he cut.

In this case he was already in a banked turn when he hit the wire - however he told me that he thought of the TC Turn and how lucky he was to be set up on the right angle just as he hit the wire.

Here's the method - use it at your own risk!

Normally when an unavoidable wire strike occurs, the helicopter is arrested violently either by being pitched nose down or inverted when the wire hits the skid gear or becomes an unguided missile when the wire slides over the cabin roof and takes out the control tubes.

This is because there is usually nothing to cut the wire.

So.... when you are in an unavoidable wire strike situation, "Do the TC Turn!"

Immediately initiate a roll of the machine to any side with the cyclic. 

You now have made the Main Rotor Disc into a big, vertical buzz saw blade as it is now no longer horizontal with the ground and has big mobs of energy to cut through the wire. I have seen Robinson R22 blades with only a small leading edge dent after cutting through a thick power wire.

You have turned a virtually unsurvivable accident into a 95% chance of walking away without a scratch.

So many pilots have saved their lives with the TC turn that we have been thinking of forming an exclusive TC turn club. Let me know if you qualify as a member

Instructors - I always spent an hour of ab-initio training with student pilots working around a power line. The student was shown all the traps - sun, dirty bubble, guy wires, secondary wires, earth wires, sagging wires (heat of the day), rising ground, fences, wires strung from high ground to high ground etc, culminating in flying safely under a normal domestic power line wire.

You are the professional expert - please spend time with your students around wires - you may well save their life by preventing future accidents.

Last, but not least - scrap any Robinson R22 Main Rotor blade which cuts through a power wire. It has saved your life once - don't risk a blade failure later!!!

Safe flying - TC  Ton

Extra: Make sure you also read this survival tip - click here

Wires & your eyeball



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