Murphy's Law: October 4, 2004


The army is cutting back on its effort to develop a technical fix for the brownout problem in Iraq. During the first few months in Iraq, six to nine American helicopters crashed because of brownout. This is a condition that occurs when a helicopter is close to the ground, and theres a lot of dust around. The air pushed down by the rotors causes a cloud of brown dust, or brownout. The problem was quickly eliminated by the building of landing pads (using concrete, asphalt, or metal matting) for most landings, plus doing fewer assault landings in dusty places, and more pilot experience with the problem. 

The brownout problem is particularly common, and severe, in Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was a new experience for many pilots, and they sometimes became so disoriented that they ran into the ground, or turned the wrong way and had their rotors hit something. Most of the accidents did not destroy the helicopter, or kill anyone. But in all cases, the helicopter was out of action for days, weeks, or even months, as repairs were made. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) helicopters dont have this problem nearly as much, because of their special navigation systems that enable night and bad weather operation. So the army began developing a Guided Launch and Recovery System (GLARS) system for all of its helicopters. Costing about $200,000 per helicopter, GLARS will give pilots a better idea of exactly where they are when close to the ground and in a cloud of dust, or snow (whiteout.) But with the problem less common, efforts to install GLARS in all army helicopters has been delayed, if not stopped. 


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