Before the takeoff: how are the sanitary and fire aviation of Moscow being prepared for departure

December 5, 2021
Safety and security

They have to be always ready to fly out to rescue people in a matter of minutes. Five helicopters in total: two firefighters Ka-32A and three air ambulances VK117C-2 are on duty every day at the Moscow Aviation Center.

"Moscow Aviation Center is a unique emergency response organization. Ninety percent of the institution's flying staff are reserve officers. Aircraft crews conduct reconnaissance of fire hazards, evacuate victims of major accidents and provide emergency hospitalization. They extinguish fires and search for those lost in the woods. Every year the pilots of the Moscow Aviation Center perform more than 350 flyouts. Since the beginning of this year, firefighter helicopters have taken part in extinguishing 14 major fires", said Deputy Mayor of Moscow on housing and public utilities and redevelopment Petr Biryukov.

A whole team of engineers supervises the helicopters, ready to fix any failure.

Engineers are responsible for lives

Today the fleet of the capital's aviation center has 11 helicopters. Five of them — VK117 С-2 — are used to transport the injured to hospitals. The scout helicopter Bell-429  is designed to monitor and analyze the situation. Another five helicopters where there is one heavy Mi-26T and four medium Ka-32A are putting out fires.

Five helicopters are on duty every day, and they must always be ready to work. They are monitored by 75 specialists of engineering and aviation support. It is they who issue the flight clearance to the pilots.

Helicopters on duty undergo daily pre- and post-flight checks. Technicians and engineers inspect all systems, check radio electronics and onboard power supply, as well as communication with ground services and navigation. Yegor Zhigarev, head of the Aircraft Maintenance Base, emphasizes that specialists have no more than 40 minutes for the entire examination.

"We're checking the instrument display to make sure it's accurate and there are no errors when launching the helicopter. We inspect control systems, fuses, antenna assemblies, connectors, plugs, position lights, landing lights and other equipment," he explains.

Staying alert is the secret to keeping emergency aviation running smoothly. This is especially important during major accidents when the countdown to save lives goes to minutes.

Therefore, helicopters in the Aviation Center are always fully fueled and ready for an urgent flight not only in Moscow, but also in neighboring regions. Fuel should be enough to get there and back. As a matter of fact, the convoy is fueled by a whole team of 40 people. Refueling stations for aircraft do not exist. A large gasoline truck drives up to them and the fuel is supplied through a special hose.

In winter, the engine warm-up is added for Ka-32A and Mi-26 helicopters, which are waiting to take off in open areas. So that the helicopter could take off even in freezing temperatures, it is fitted with a universal engine heater which represents a machine with two thick hoses, through which comes the air heated to 60-80 degrees.

In addition to daily flight preparation, engineers perform operational and periodic maintenance of helicopters.

"During the operational maintenance, specialists check oil levels, look for defects in rotors, and check the integrity of the fuselage and glazing. If the regulations say that after 100 hours or three months we have to do certain maintenance work, then the helicopter's duty is suspended, the maintenance is done, and the aircraft returns for duty. Such work includes diagnostics of units, replacement of the engine or helicopter gearbox, which ensures the coordinated work of the engine and rotors," Yevgeny Savvin, chief engineer of the aviation center, said.

Even with the seemingly smallest malfunction, engineers closely examine every part of the helicopter in search of a failure. For example, figures for the Mi-26 helicopter takes up an entire room. To find a failure, you literally have to crawl over it and check every section. Failure finding can take hours, days, and fixing it can take five minutes.

Taking off

Prior to taking the wheel, pilots undergo a mandatory medical examination. Doctors measure their temperature, blood pressure, pulse and make a conclusion about their admission to fly. There are four staff members of the medical service at the aviation center in the capital city.

After the inspection pilots arrive at the airfield for a briefing analyzing the weather conditions and restrictions in the airspace.

"After analyzing the meteorological conditions, we contact the operational duty officers. Pilots tell them their plan of action: are they ready to fly, or should they wait for better weather conditions, for example," explains Alexey Didenko, deputy commander of the flight group of the Moscow Aviation Center.

The crew then receives the helicopter from the engineering service. Starting from this moment, the commander is fully responsible for the aircraft. He conducts an external pre-flight inspection, turns on the onboard panel, checks the serviceability of systems and equipment, flashing beacons and headlights. And in the air ambulance helicopter, the pilot manually cranks the rotors, checking their performance.

All this takes no more than 20 minutes, after which the crew gets into the cockpit and requests permission from the control room to takeoff. On the intercom, the pilots say they are ready, confirm the itinerary, and, after receiving permission, take off.

Who controls flights

The flight control center is the brain of the Metropolitan Aviation Center. Twenty-six people work here: they track not only the takeoff of the aircraft, but also the flight itself as well as the landing.

Oleg Gundarev, head of the operational and production activity support service of the Moscow Aviation Center, notes that the site is equipped with modern computers, warning systems and video surveillance of the landing sites.

"Crews of the air center fly in an area with severe restrictions. Every flight, down to the second, must be strictly coordinated with the flight control authorities. Using video equipment, operatives on duty can visually track the helicopter, the presence of radio allows you to hear communications during the flight. We always contact the pilots before each takeoff and landing. For example, the crew arrives on the scene of an accident, the doctors only bring the victim, into the helicopter, and the pilots at this time already notify us where they will evacuate this person. In this way we have full information about the flight and all possible changes along the way," says the specialist.

Besides, flight dispatchers work at the helicopter landing sites at the hospitals. They support takeoff and landing of air ambulance helicopters, inform the crew about weather conditions at the site, site’s condition, the work of radio-light equipment.


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