Earthquake Testing Helicopter Main Transport Rescue System in China

新华网 王潇雨  Date:2013-4-26 17:48:34  View :

“No roads in the world are as rough as those in Sichuan”, after the quake, the roads in Sichuan were still harder to go. When the land roads were too difficult for traffic to go, air routes became the lifeline of the affected areas.
If Wenchuan earthquake five years ago exposed the weak aviation disaster relief system of China, which then triggered a discussion about the development of general aviation, the opening of low altitude airspace and heavy helicopter research and development issues, Lushan earthquake in April 20th was a test stage of this system.
Judging from the point of the present situation, the outside evaluation of this air rescue is polarized. On one hand, China's aviation system in the disaster relief in the process of response rate and equipment performance has been improved significantly. On the other hand, however, some people voiced that the military air rescue efforts in such aspects as transportation guarantee ability have no significant change compared with those five years ago and many private general aviation enterprises with equipment were not “called up” for the rescue, which disappointed them.
Energy of Helicopter
“For disaster relief, helicopters are the most appropriate tools, which do not require ideal landing points and have considerable speed, and quickly transport heavy equipment or medicine, tents and clothing and other supplies to the area with road traffic damaged,” said Bai Guangyuan, the director in charge of Asia & Pacific Region of American Aviation Weekly, in an interview with our reporter on April 22.
From the point of response speed, the Army Air Corps reacted just on time. Five minutes after the quake, the Army Air Corps held an operation meeting to make plan, study the course, master the terrain and climate in the disaster area, and completed rapidly the relief task deployment. Two hours after the quake, the helicopters arrived at the epicenter and sent back the scene image. At the same time, more than 30 transport helicopters quickly completed preparations for disaster relief, and quickly connected the air corridor between the quake zone and the outside.
As of August 23, the Army Air Corps had flown 130 sorties in the route of the complex canyon areas within the golden 72-hour rescue period, transporting more than 20 tons of materials, more than 300 air rescue workers, more than 30 severe injuries, transferring more 50 affected people.
But such flight frequency and carrying efficiency also raised some questions. “Since the air corridor has been established, why can't the helicopters transport supplies in a mass and constant way? As there is still not enough ground traffic, if the air transport efficiency is improved, the rescue will be more productive.” A person participating in the rescue in the disaster area expressed such doubt in an interview with our reporter on April 22.
“This is related to local weather conditions and the much rain and the wind changes in the mountain area have great influence on helicopter flight safety.” An air force officer expressed to our newspaper reporter, as Sichuan area is in high altitude, and after the flight altitude increases, the air density will decrease, which will affect the helicopter engine power and rotor efficiency and result in poor controllability, and the helicopters generally fly with high load, thus requiring the engine power to have a surplus sufficient to guarantee their mobility.
But this officer acknowledged “No matter in military navigation or in civil aviation, at present, there are still too few helicopters overall in China, and pilots and logistics are needed badly, and the infrastructure is also insufficient, which all seriously restricts the development."
And in disaster relief, the role of heavy choppers is widely recognized, in addition to the fact that they can carry more people and equipment, their transport capacity of the large equipment required by the rescue operation is just what the small helicopters do not have.
Bai Guangyuan said: “if there is a urgent demand, it is necessary to purchase them rather than you build them yourselves, and at present, only U.S.A and Russia in the world can manufacture heavy helicopters. Even if America refuses to sell them, you can buy them from Russia.”
In Wenchuan earthquake relief operation, the world's largest Russian helicopter Mi- 26 played an important role in clearing the blocked lake danger situation by lifting all kinds of large machinery and equipment. Then because of this, China and Russia signed an agreement of cooperation development of heavy choppers, and most of the domestic military helicopters are still made in Russia or Ukraine at present.
“Now, the helicopters with best plateau operation performance are S70 (Black Hawk) in the military were introduced from America in the eighty's of the last century.” The above air force officer said to our reporter, “Later due to a variety of reasons U.S. refused to sell us any such helicopters, only provide spare parts, so the S70 helicopters are reducing gradually, but they still play a large role in disaster relief.””
“The helicopter industry of our country is relatively backward, which is a fact. However, those countries with advanced helicopters are unwilling to sell their advanced helicopters for one reason or another.” Amateur military researcher and military history researchers Li Xiaojie told our reporter, “So it is impossible to solve the problem only by buying them. A big country like ours should also rely on our own strength to meet the needs of this aspect. In a short term, maybe we can purchase them for emergency; but in the long term, we must rely on domestic helicopters. China’s aviation industry has been able to make light and medium utility helicopters, but there is some way to go for the heavy helicopters, especially high power turbine shaft engine technology.”
The Three-Dimensional Relief System
Helicopters in the relief activities play a role in more intuitive way, but not only the helicopter is at work.
On April 21, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth implemented earthquake monitoring work in Baoxing County and its surrounding areas by using high-resolution aviation remote sensing image.
“The vertical application of the Big Dipper Satellite and reconnaissance craft and large transport aircraft has improved the efficiency of disaster relief. The above air force officer told our reporter, “Information technology and the application of data link, cooperated by the modernized equipment, can not only be used in the combat, but also work in disaster relief.
In Li Xiaojie view, in the disaster relief activities, the reconnaissance UAV and reconnaissance satellite mainly provide high resolution images in the disaster areas, including visible light, infrared and synthetic aperture radar and a variety of ways; Communication UAV and communication satellite can also provide communication relay service in disaster areas, set up emergency communications network; Navigation and positioning satellite can provide accurate location information for disaster relief troops; Meteorological satellite can provide relief meteorological support, etc.
“Very quick response and dispatching professional reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters for disasters reconnaissance, and providing effective information for relief efforts are all the changes in the disaster relief compared with those before,” expressed Li Xiaojie.
But the military rescue activities also made a lot of private general aviation enterprises try to participate in it to prove themselves. Since the earthquake in 2008, these private general aviation enterprises have been emerging swiftly, but their living environment is not optimistic.
On April 22, Xilin Fengteng General Aviation flew to Lushan earthquake disaster area for rescue operation after specially approved by Sichuan Province 420 Command Center. This is also the first private general aviation enterprise approved directly involved in the disaster relief.
More private general aviation companies, by contrast, only constantly call out through media and social networking, “We are ready, only for an order.”
There are many such “on standby” general navigation enterprises, but their passion will not solve all issues.
“Our country is still a developing country; the development of general aviation is still relatively backward, generally concentrated in the Marine oil, forest fire fighting, power patrol, geological investigation, etc.” Li Xiaojie thinks, the so-called private general aviation is just starting from the aircraft types, flight skills to the rescue work.“Most of private general aviations have small helicopter which can not play an important role, but also take up the routes and controlled resources, and have some issues with the military's communication program, so it is hard to believe they have any use,” he said.
In Mr. Bai Guangyuan’s opinion, relief work is always supposed to be the government’s job rather than the military.“In Australia, for example, in the event of natural disasters, the government will hire a professional rescue company or lease the related equipment for the disaster relief work, and the army may participate, but with the identity of supplier rather than the dominant force,” he told the reporter.
In general aviation industry veteran Mr. Jiang's view, “Private general aviation enterprise shall show a gesture, wanting to promote the policy of opening the low altitude by their actions, thus winning a still larger development space.”
According to Mr. Jiang, “Generation navigation is the foundation of a country's development in aviation industry, associated with the important meaning of gathering professional talents both for the military and the people, and even if we could now buy enough aircraft, we are still lack of pilots and maintenance related professionals, so air rescue system is attached to the development of general navigation system, for which we still have a long way to go.”