Chinook helicopter running ice tests near Sawyer International Airport

A Chinook helicopter running ice tests near Sawyer International Airport. (Jessica Derouin Photo)

KI SAWYER, Mich. (WBAY/WLUC) - People near Sawyer International Airport are asking about a military helicopter spraying a white mist over the former Air Force base in Marquette County.

Airport manager Duane Duray says the helicopter is spraying water to create an artificial ice cloud.

An Army division that does icing certification for aircraft takes advantage of the very cold weather. It uses a Chinook helicopter equipped with a very large water tank. It sprays water through a boom behind the helicopter, and an aircraft following the helicopter flies into the mist.

Duray explained this allows for controlled testing. If the icing begins to affect the test aircraft, the pilot can fly out of the mist.

The Army has a "paying customer" that wants to test a new or redesigned aircraft and get it certified, so the division is warming up, you might say, to make sure everything is ready for the controlled tests.

Duray says the former base has been used for icing certification for years.

He isn't surprised by the phone calls, though. The Chinook is a large and powerful helicopter, and Duray says the neighbors can feel it pass overhead.

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