The machine gun-like staccato pulses in the pilot’s headset grew more intense and accelerated the closer the Bell 206 turbine helicopter came to powerlines along Orlando’s Interstate 4. Pilot Andrew Hayden of AirOcean Aviation in Yalesville, Connecticut, was hired by Safe Flight to provide demonstrations of the system prior to the National Business Aviation Association convention in Florida Oct. 21 through 23.
The helicopter landing site is used for tourist helicopter scenic flights near the Orlando convention center. The landing capped a demonstration flying 500 feet above powerlines between Orlando and Kissimmee. Hayden demonstrated that when powerlines are backlit by the sun, they seem to disappear. Helicopter pilots normally have only four or five seconds to react to the sight of powerlines in the flight path, but the system gives aural warning eight seconds before reaching the powerlines. While the system has been offered for years, it was recently upgraded to include both 50 Hz (international) and 60 Hz (United States) in one digital processing system.
The entire system adds only a pound to the weight of the helicopter, and includes a display with a sensitivity control, a button that provides a warning light. By pushing that button the pilot can silence the warning. The system is called the Dual Frequency Powerline Detection System. It is approved for a dozen helicopter models and will soon be approved for the Bell 429.
As we approached the landing site, I had mentioned to Hayden that I couldn’t see the powerlines along the busy interstate. “But we can hear them,” he answered. Hear the powerline warning in this video.