Strange Sight in the Sky? Arsenal Confirms Teams Preparing for Icing Testing

REDSTONE ARSENAL (WHNT) – It’s hard to get used to the strange things that come from Redstone Arsenal. Whether it’s booms and explosions or the mysterious blob that appeared on WHNT’s weather radar for several days, if something odd is happening in or around Huntsville, the usual suspect is Redstone Arsenal.

UPDATE: More of these tests are taking place Friday, January 24.  Some of you have seen the helicopter and plane in Limestone County.  This is just colored water they are spraying.  It does not contain any chemicals, the Arsenal said.

A few people wrote in to WHNT reporting quite an odd sight Wednesday — a Chinook helicopter spraying a liquid in front of a small aircraft in the skies of Madison County. Naturally, when this type of odd sight is reported, we contacted Redstone Arsenal Public Affairs Officer Dan O’Boyle for more information.

O’Boyle reported that yes, the Arsenal is indeed conducting testing in the skies of northern Alabama today. Or, rather, preparing for the true test later in February.

Mike Criss with the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center shed a little more light on what exactly is happening.

“What folks have been observing is the Redstone Test Center 2014 Icing Team preparing for their annual icing test season in Duluth, MN,” said Criss.

According to Criss, the team is not currently conducting testing, but they are exercising their test equipment prior to deploying to Duluth in February.

“What you have seen is a unique, RTC capability to conduct icing testing for rotary and fixed wing aircraft — no other testing capability like this exists within DoD,” said Criss.

They are spraying colored water.

The test Criss’s team is preparing for consists of a highly modified Chinook aircraft equipped with a system that enables the test team to create and measure different icing conditions for aircraft being tested.

It’s important to do this type of testing to see how different aircraft react to the possibility of ice forming on the body of the aircraft. Knowing the circumstances under which ice forms on an aircraft and how it affects it could save lives in the long run.

“This year, the “Icers” will be conducting an icing test with the Italians on the Agusta Westland 189 – a medium-sized transport/utility helicopter,” said Criss.

So, there you have it — Mystery solved.

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