REDSTONE ARSENAL, AL (WAFF) - Very interesting training is being conducted by the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center over the next month.
Some residents in Huntsville and Decatur may have already spotted a group of helicopters and planes in the sky over parts of north Alabama using a spray system. It’s all for an upcoming icing test.
The Redstone Test Center is the only one in the world offering this capability.
A CH-47F will be flying over parts of the Tennessee Valley in the coming weeks, along with other aircraft. It has a large orange boom system hanging from it that sprays water. It's called the Helicopter Icing Spray System or HISS. It's used to generate artificial icing conditions used in testing aircraft.
“It’s made up of a large water tank, a water boom spray assembly, alternate power units and different plumbing and control systems that allow us to lay down an artificial and controllable cloud that enables test aircraft to fly and demonstrate the performance of their anti-ice and deice systems in a controllable, safe environment, basically the cloud that’s laid down by the HISS,” explained RTC test pilot Adam Cowan.
The man-made clouds created by the HISS, ensure aircraft systems can handle actual icing conditions in a real, natural cloud. The effects of ice accumulation and shedding are then documented with onboard instrumentation and photography.
“It allows us to control the environment in terms of the amount of water that’s in the cloud and it also allows the crew to exit the icing conditions if they experience some type of a problem,” Cowan stated.
The U.S. Army Redstone Test Center’s Aviation Flight Test Directorate, previously known as the Army Aviation Technical Test Center, has been conducting HISS testing for customers since 1973.
“This capability, HISS, exists only in the United States Army. We are the only organization in the world that provides this capability. We generally will partner with civilian industry, with foreign militaries and assist them with the icing certification of their rotary wing aircraft,” Cowan said.
It benefits the companies and the Army because it allows them to maintain and operate the equipment and for the crews to maintain efficiency at this complex task for follow on U.S. DOD programs that may require this type of testing in rotary wing aircraft that will be coming online in the near future, Cowan added.
Now, the Redstone Test Center (RTC) is in the process of transitioning from the older model CH-47D (Chinook) to a CH-47F- a more modern helicopters that utilizes a digital computer system instead of an analog one.
RTC is currently undergoing the Air Worthiness Qualification process for the F-model, in preparation for the next icing season this October in Marquette, Michigan to verify the airworthiness and to make sure the system works the same or better on the newer model. Crews will deploy in October and come back in March of next year. They'll be doing real 'ice' testing with helicopters from customers.
“The CH-47F is the latest generation of the Chinook. It replaced the CH-47D. It has a modernized, digital cockpit. It has a much enhanced automatic flight control system. All these systems combine to reduce the workload of the crew, increase situational awareness and enhances mission accomplishment for the cargo aircraft,” Cowan stated.
RTC is the only testing provider that has a tank than can emerge the entire helicopter (8 feet high by 36 feet wide).
During this testing period, which is scheduled to begin next week and last until mid-June, residents may see a large orange boom system hanging from a CH-47F helicopter and spraying water
The helicopter may be trailed closely by a RC-12G (Beech King Air) fixed-wing aircraft equipped with specialized sensors that characterize the cloud generated by the HISS. Additional aircraft in the formation may include the UH-72 Lakota helicopter or T-6B Texan II fixed-wing for safety oversight and photograph documentation. The aircraft will adhere to all relevant FAA regulations during training and testing.
Residents should not be alarmed or concerned. The system is only using water during this training.