Crash Course: Industrial Wind Turbines Pose Deadly Threat to Light Aircraft
Industrial wind turbines create at least 2 critical dangers for flyers: 1) wake turbulence; 2) collision with blades and towers. The air turbulence generated by hundreds of 50-60m blades with their outer tips travelling at around 350km/h (wake turbulence) messes with the pilot’s ability to control their aircraft (see our post here). Slamming into them, often in bad weather, ends with reasonably predictable results.
Results such as the 4 killed in South Dakota, when the plane depicted above slammed into a turbine in foggy conditions.
Here’s another example of the deadly threat wake turbulence poses to pilots, their aircraft and passengers.
Plane crash blamed on ‘turbulence’ from wind farm
10 March 2022
A pilot injured in a crash landing has claimed a “violent” gust which caused him to lose control of his plane may have been caused by a nearby windfarm.
The 66-year-old man crashed off the runway and into a field while attempting to land at Beverley Airfield in August.
According to an Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report he said he believed “turbulence effects” from the windfarm may have contributed to the loss of control.
The report concluded that while “the possibility of encountering wake turbulence from the windfarm at this airfield is remote, it cannot be entirely ruled out”.
The AAIB said the private pilot had reported “strong” turbulence as he approached 150ft and had taken action to keep the wings level.
As he neared the ground he encountered a further “violent” gust and despite his efforts to pull up the 1959 Piper PA-22-150 plane veered to the left and came down in a field.
The pilot told crash investigators he believed wake turbulence from the spinning blades was a contributing factor.
The nearest turbine to the runway was 1,400m away, the report said.
The pilot, who had amassed 119 hours of flying, suffered minor injuries, while the plane was destroyed.
The AAIB report, external said current research suggests the nearest turbine was far enough away from the runway at Beverley not to impact on planes but that the possibility could not be ruled out.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a regulatory authority has bent over backwards to find the wind industry not guilty.
This is a report submitted to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, or CASA, by a highly experienced agricultural pilot Ted McIntosh back in March 2013:
Local time: 0730
Location: 9kms WNW of Gunning Wind Farm, Gunning NSW. Damage to aircraft: nil Most serious injury: nil
Whilst on descent to my operating airstrip near Biala NSW, I suddenly experienced severe turbulence at about 500-600ft AGL. The wind at this time had been approx. 5-8 knots from the SE. After landing I ascertained that there was only a slight breeze at ground level. I suspected that the turbulence was caused by the wind turbines at the Gunning Wind Farm but was amazed that the effect could be felt 9kms away.
After the next take-off I confirmed that the turbulence was indeed caused by the turbines.
There are many fixed wing & helicopter aircraft which operate at or below 500 ft AGL legitimately from hundreds of airfields around Australia.
CASA & the Dept. of Infrastructure & Transport have released a study, the National Airports Safeguarding Framework Guidelines D (Wind Turbines) to protect major airports, but it should be apparent that the greater threat to air safety from wind turbine turbulence lies around country airports, both public & private, which threat CASA & the Dept of Infrastructure & Transport have glossed over or ignored.
Could the ATSB please investigate this report & the future ramifications of authorities ignoring it.
Here’s CASA’s fob-off response:
… we have no jurisdiction over structures of this nature. The only advice I can offer is that as pilot in command you need to take any environmental conditions, including mechanical turbulence, into account when planning your flights. As the wind turbine may be causing turbulence you will need to plan your flight path carefully taking into account the turbulence that may be experienced downwind of these turbines.
So CASA’s response to pilots is, sorry boys, you’re on your own …