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A collection of sublime images from embedded journalist Michael Yon of what happens when helicopters fly through dust storms. Lightning bolts arcing around the blades are thought to be created by static electricity arising from friction between two dissimilar materials - in this case the metal blades and the sand. Yon coined the term "Kopp-Etchells Effect", named for two soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
I was an SH-60B Seahawk helicopter crewman for 15 years... with a wind-gust, the blades CAN droop!! They can FLEX 2-3 FEET rather quickly and without warning to anyone on the ground. On the SH-60 family the MOST dangerous area is the 10 to 2 o'clock position since the rotor-head is built with a 2.5 degree forward tilt. The blades pass the ground about 8 feet above the ground at the 12 o-clock, so with a 4 foot flex... that blade is SUDDENLY close to being a 5 foot WEED WACKER !!
Once while hot-refueling (rotors spinning) our bird on the ship, I WATCHED a deck-crewman exit the rotor-arc at the 1 o'clock position and get HIT. He was VERY lucky as it was a glancing blow... it still threw him 20 ft and cracked his cranial (helmet), but he lived and was working the next day.
ALWAYS enter the rotor arc at the 3 or 9... and have your safety glasses or goggles ON.
US Naval Aircrewman / Limited Duty Officer 1985-1999
A U.S. Army soldier reaches up to touch a hovering CH-47 Chinook helicopter with a grounding rod as he and his fellow soldiers prepare to sling load a container from Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, on March 13, 2001. The grounding rod is used to dissipate the build up of static electricity on the helicopter so the soldiers who attach the loading slings won't be shocked.