Helicopters Magazine

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Flight Safety: The Dangerous Goods Dilemma

July 18, 2007  By Geoff Goodyear

Many years ago I worked with an emergency response team conducting ice blasting operations in central Newfoundland.

Many years ago I worked with an emergency response team conducting ice
blasting operations in central Newfoundland. The team was using PVC
pipe filled with bulk explosive to break up threatening ice jams on
local rivers. Our team was already deployed and I was departing from
our local airport to the worksite.

per the regulations of the day, we informed the authorities of our
cargo and the air traffic controller was curious as to what we were
doing. I responded that our crack team of highly trained emergency
response personnel was playing with and blowing up vast quantities of
plastic sewer pipe. The frequency went silent for a time; then, a
single-syllable response: “Oh.” No doubt he was having difficulty
understanding the nuances of a transportation of dangerous goods
operation. Not only is he in vast company, but the confusion continues
to this day.

All helicopter pilots, particularly those who
thrash about in the bush, end up carrying various types and quantities
of dangerous goods. We are likely to encounter anything from hairspray
to, well, explosive-laden sewer pipe. The list is long. My most
memorable encounter with a dangerous goods issue came very early in my
career when I was slinging some camp equipment in a net. An old camp
stove was among the varied articles in the load. I picked up the net
and was plodding happily along when I checked the load in my mirror and
was shocked to see flames licking up at the lanyard from the net and
smoke trailing for miles behind.

Having the load on fire was bad
enough, but I did not want to pickle the thing and start a forest fire
and/or lose everyone’s personal gear that hadn’t already burned.


an effort to save what was left of my reputation and the camp
equipment, I did a quick about-face and an expedited approach to the
lakeshore I had recently departed. I dropped the load in a couple of
feet of water with all the camp lined up on the shore staring in
stunned disbelief. After landing I fully expected some heartfelt
thank-yous for my efforts but was taken aback by the long faces on all
the staff. Only the engineer seemed capable of speech; he looked at the
halfsubmerged load, then at me.“What the hell are you trying to prove?”
he said – or words to that effect. The ‘flame’ turned out to be orange
surveyors tape tied onto the top of the net, and the smoke turned out
to be ash blowing out of the old camp stove which had not been lit for
a week, and a week is about how long it took for all the sleeping bags
to dry out…


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