This is a follow up diary to my original one about using helicopters to help in ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan.
Original diary link - Helicopters to the rescue?
I am putting this up a second diary instead of an update to keep the bandwidth down for those good folks with slower internet connections.
please follow along below, for an update and more pictures.
I have watched all the video and looked at the photos of the helicopter drops that have been done on the crippled reactor buildings, and I was really disappointed in what I saw
them doing. They were dropping water much too high to get much of it onto the building.
The set up they are using standard out of the box equipment. Using a standard 25,000 lb lifting sling and then attaching their water buckets to the bottom of the sling.
Perhaps that is how they have trained before. Perhaps that is all they have on hand.
I get the impression that they are using this equipment in the most conservative manner
possible, which really makes it ineffective.
Here is a photo of a Chinook picking up a crash damaged Huey Helicopter using a 25k sling. This mission was done in the Rocky Mountains on a hill top 11,000 feet up. I was the guy on the ground that hooked up the load under the aircraft,
A longer line can be made from any suitable piece of steel cable with the ends of the cable clamped to make proper loops to attach it to the helicopter and to the bucket.
Of course the tensile strength of the cable must be rated for twice the anticipated static load of 18,000 lbs. This is because you are flying this load and significant g forces can be applied to the load when the helicopter pulls power and climbs with the load.
This type cable could be built in a day, perhaps less, I am sure the US Navy has this type of cable on hand and could help build one if they were asked to.
Here is a picture of a bucket set up using that exact type of cable (steel).
We used this set up to fight fires in 2006, while it is heavier to use and handle, it works just as well as lighter prefabricated composite (plasma) lines.
Here is a closer look at the bucket controller head and a prefabricated composite long line, which we now use.
Another reason using cables might be really important...
If they end up doing a "Junk shot" of dropping sand / boron / whatever will work on the reactor to kill it, bury it, shield it. Then they are going to have to use something disposable to rig the loads for dropping.
US forces did this exact thing during relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and Gustav.
Here is a picture of sand bags rigged with disposable wire cable lifting slings lined up for use. (This picture was taken by the Nebraska crew working Gustav).
And here is a close up of those same sand bags dropped into a levy breach, you can see the wire cables in this picture.
Personally I do not believe the Japanese are very good at mcguyvering (jury rigging) things. Thinking out of the box is a trait that is not highly prized in that society.
(I spent over a year over two tours stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, on the southern island of Okinawa in the 1980's) and getting along with others and group think is pretty much the way they do things over there.
Just my own opinion.
The helicopters there SHOULD be using long lines on their buckets, for safety of the crews and for better control of where the water goes.
Of course it is harder to gauge where the bucket is with a long line, and there is the danger of bring the bucket in too low and hitting the building. Considering the current status of those reactors I really do not think there is any way smacking the bucket into anything could make things any worse.
Using a long line lets the crew and helicopter stay farther away from the bad stuff, and still get the bucket closer to where you want to drop.
Controlling the bucket height is really very easy.
The Chinook has an automatic flight control system (AFCS) which makes it very stable
and much more easy for the pilots to fly, it even has two of these systems, as a redundancy in case one system fails.
The pilot can select automatic control in any one of three ways.
Heading hold - The pilot pushes the button and the helicopter will hold a given magnetic heading within a degree or less regardless of external forces such as wind or even control inputs.
Baro hold - This tells the helicopter to maintain a given barometric height (pressure altitude) within about 50 feet up or down. This mode is usually only used when the helicopter is more than a thousand feet above the ground and is generally used to maintain altitude in cruise flight.
and finally - Rad alt hold - THIS is the one they should be using, and probably are.
Using the radar altimeter this automatic mode, keeps the helicopter at an exact height above the ground using the radar altimeter which bounces a radar signal off the ground. It is only usable below 2000 feet and really only useful below one thousand feet. This system is very accurate below 500 feet.
All the crew has to do is determine the height the bucket should be at for the drop, using a spotter or even a dry run, set the Rad Alt and then make the drop run.
The helicopter should be right at the exact height wanted for the drop.
But this really has become a world disaster, and I also think we should offer them as much help as possible. There are lots of American pilots and crews that have knowledge and experience doing this sort of helicopter work, I hope that resource is used to help in this case.
In my previous diary I noted that I sent word to the President via the white house and got no response. Yesterday I personally called Senator Ben Nelsons staff and spoke about this issue with them, I also spoke with some folks pretty high up in the local chain of command... hopefully if there is something our Military can do to help that is not already being done, it will be offered.
I hope the Japanese figure this out, and I wish them the best of luck in this terrible tragedy.
And I will end this diary with a bit of military humor... which we can all use a dose of now and then.
Our Gustav crew wrote a slogan on the tail of their aircraft (105) while down in Mississippi..
"Freedom costs $1.05"
I hope this diary added some signal and not just noise to the discussion...
I have to run off to work, will be back later to check comments and answer questions.
Good day to you all.