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elbanditoroso's avatar

Suppose you are in a helicopter when an earthquake takes place. Is there any danger to you?

Asked by elbanditoroso (15986 points ) March 18th, 2014

During the earthquake, the ground moves and shakes. Does that movement cause waves in the air that would in turn buffet and shake a helicopter flying in the air?

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15 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If it moves the air that much you’re going to have bigger problems then a little turbulence.

ucme's avatar

Would clearly depend on the altitude the helicopter was flying at.

snowberry's avatar

If you land once the quakes are over, you’re OK, but depending on the severity of the quake, you could still have to deal with loss of ground support (refueling, transportation once you land, communications, etc).

JLeslie's avatar

I would think the altitude of the plane and the severity of the quake would matter. It’s hard for me to believe a quake would be big enough to disturb the air enough to bring down a plane, but I guess maybe in theory it’s possible. Cars, boats and trains disturb the air all day long and it doesn’t seem to affect the air enough that airports aren’t built next to major highways.

Brian1946's avatar

I don’t know how much aerodynamic energy it takes to affect the flight stability of a helicopter, or the ratio of dissipation for ground-air energy transfers.

However, I’ve experienced earthquakes of magnitudes 4.4, 5.1, 5.4, and 6.7 without ever noticing any air turbulence 0–6’ above ground level during any of them.

CWOTUS's avatar

The only danger to you in the aircraft would be what physical activity took place with structures or other solids attached to or affected by the ground movement, such as landslides or trees or wires moving, for example. That, and having a safe place to land, of course.

As @Adirondackwannabe noted, if there is enough air movement as a result of the earthquake to affect you in the air, then you are well and truly screwed. Helicopters deal with “air movement” all the time, since they some fly though hurricane force winds on rescue missions: this video was shot from a Coast Guard helicopter during a rescue mission which occurred during the real “perfect storm” that the book was written about. Winds ain’ no thang.

XOIIO's avatar

Seismic energy doesn’t transfer to air very well aside from sound. Stomp on the floor in your house with a balloon in the air, it won’t do anything to it.

zenvelo's avatar

There wouldn’t be any more disturbance than a big wave crashing on the beach as the helicopter is above the surf line.

I have seen a slight raising of dust after a very large (6.0) quake. But it doesn’t move at all quickly, and does not rise more than about ten or fifteen feet.

NanoNano's avatar

Here’s an article that addresses the question. Its really a matter of the volume of air traffic:

http://airmedical.net/2011/03/28/earthquakes-affect-aircraft-airports-runways/

“Consider that in the U.S. alone, air traffic controllers handle an average of over 120 take-offs and landings every second. The recent earthquake in Japan lasted for over 360 seconds. If a six minute earthquake were to hit the U.S., that adds up to about 44,000 planes and helicopters landing and taking off from runways while the ground is still shaking…”

filmfann's avatar

Swinging power lines, sudden bursts of heat from gas explosions, and the fact that you are in a helicopter are all dangerous.

Remember Jane Dornacker

johnpowell's avatar

Your eardrums would burst before it would affect a helicopter.

rojo's avatar

Funny you should ask. This morning they were discussing the earthquake in California and there was a copter pilot saying something like “Well, we were safe up here but how are you guys doing in the studio?”.
So, I guess no problems at a 4.4 quake.

Megan64's avatar

Only if you’re in a snow globe.

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