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21 Aug 2019

Wake Turbulence

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Another subject that was not previously in our training materials but that our clients have noted is appearing in the Transport Canada exams is helicopter wake turbulence.

As with any aircraft, a helicopter creates a wake in the air similar to what a boat creates in the water.

If you have ever been in a canoe and crossed the wake of a large ship, you know the power of the wake and the dramatic effect that it can have on your vessel.

Similarly, if you fly your small aircraft close too close behind a larger aircraft you can experience wake turbulence. This can be disastrous in aviation.

Piper Saratoga Ripped Apart by 737 wake

AOPA article on a 2006 accident that cost the lives of the pilot and passenger.

In the AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual) Transport Canada has guidance on how close aircraft are allowed to follow other aircraft of various sizes.

Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual 2018 p.229

Helicopter Wake Turbulence

Helicopters also create a wake. Helicopter wake turbulence is different from that of a fixed wing airplane. In forward flight the aircraft creates vortices similar to wingtip vortices.

Helicopter wake turbulence can be significantly more intense than that of a fixed wing aircraft of similar size. The intensity of the wake can be even stronger if the helicopter is moving at a lower speeds.

Helicopters with a two blade rotor system have a stronger wake than helicopters with more blades.

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For more information on this subject check out these sources