Helicopter Frost Protection
Information for Residents
From September through to November (and sometimes early December), helicopters are used for frost protection at some vineyards. This can cause concern about safety and noise for neighbours.
These operations are normal under the Civil Aviation Rules. The Rules give requirements that the helicopter operators must meet in order to operate safely. The Civil Aviation Rules do not, however, provide for nuisance, such as noise.
Flights are required to operate at a minimum of 500 feet above ground level, except when taking off, landing, or actually conducting the frost protection work. When conducting frost protection work, the Civil Aviation Rules permit the helicopter to be flown at heights required for the purpose of the operation.
The CAA is pro-active in a number of ways to ensure the safety of frost protection operations and compliance with the Civil Aviation Rules. Information is provided to helicopter operators to remind them of the risks and concerns about these operations. The CAA audits operators to make sure they can legally carry out frost protection, there is surveillance of frost protection operations, and spot checks are also carried out.
Residents who have a safety concern can contact the CAA, tel: 0508 4 SAFETY (0508-472 338). This number is available during office hours, with voicemail after hours. Or email: email@example.com.
Residents concerned about nuisance or noise should contact the property owner where the operations are being conducted.
Some factors to keep in mind:
- Establish that the object of your concern is, in fact, a helicopter. The windmills used at many vineyards can sound remarkably similar.
- It is very difficult for the human eye to accurately perceive height, so you may think an aircraft is lower than it is.
- Perception of distance is diminished at night.
- Perception of where sound is coming from can be affected by rows of trees, hills and valleys, etc.
For further information, see Aviation Concerns.
Information for Winegrowers
There are a number of steps growers can take to ensure a trouble-free operation:
- Talk to your neighbours before the frost season. Discuss any concerns involving noise or safety early on. Provide them with a number to contact you on (if they don’t already have it) and encourage them to talk to you before they contact the Council or the Civil Aviation Authority.
- If possible, give neighbours likely to be affected as much warning as possible once it has been determined that the likelihood of frost is high.
- Arrange for the helicopter operator to have their machine(s) in position before nightfall. This will help to minimise the over-flight of built up areas at unsociable hours.
- In particular, make the pilot aware of any sensitive areas or neighbours bordering your property.
- Organise a re-fuelling point that can be used on or near your property to avoid the need for constant ferry-flights to the nearest aerodrome. Reduced ferry time will also save you money and increase time over the vines.
Provision of Landing Sites
To make the operation as safe as possible, there are a number of steps you can take in advance to prepare the landing site on your property:
- Ensure the landing site is of sufficient size and is clear of hazards, particularly overhead wires. This includes the arrival and departure flight paths. Brief your pilot during daylight hours on the nature and location of all operationally significant obstacles, both at the landing site and over the blocks to be worked. Obstacles to watch out for include TV and radio aerials, power poles and lines, electric fence power supply wires, and of course, buildings and tall trees. (Note that the normal operational heights for frost protection work are in the order of 50 to 150 feet above ground level depending on the nature of the temperature inversion layer).
- The landing site should be well lit with high-wattage flood lighting. Care should be taken to ensure that light sources are angled towards the ground so as to avoid the possibility of dazzling the pilot on approach.
- Anyone who will be working near the landing site should be thoroughly briefed by the pilot on how to approach or move away from a running helicopter. It is critical that the pilot is able to maintain visual contact with all persons approaching or moving away from the helicopter at all times.
- It would be wise to assign one person to be responsible for safety and security at the landing site (or arrange with your helicopter operator to provide someone and/or to provide training for your staff). The landing pad needs to be controlled and kept clear of vehicles, loose objects, persons not assisting the operation and livestock.
- Provide informative material for your staff who work
Safety Around Helicopters Poster - free - to order, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Safety Around Helicopter DVD - see web page for price and ordering details.
If your pilot has worked all day before arriving at your property to hover a helicopter at low-levels for a prolonged period, it is likely they will need adequate rest facilities to combat fatigue. If you can, arrange a bed or a quiet area for them to rest and prepare food or hot drinks on-site.
If you require any further information or advice, contact the
Rotary Wing Unit of the CAA,
Tel: +64 4 560 9400.