In the Netherlands, three cases have been reported of Chinook helicopters' rattle noise (low frequency sound) damaging solar panels. The Dutch defense ministry recognises this problem and the lawyer representing some of the victims says these may be the first cases (worldwide). Source (in Dutch)

I'm wondering if there are any more of such cases (possibly involving damage to property different than solar panels or involving different helicopters). I found the following literature study on rattle noise (in Dutch, sources mostly in English). The study states that damage to buildings is possible according to laboratory tests, however, as far as I can see it does not name any real world examples of such damage.

My question is if anyone knows of any such damage (different from this report in the Netherlands) to (civilian) property caused by rattle noise from helicopters.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you include damage to livestock - cows, horses, &c - scared by low-flying helicopters? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 23 '18 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf I hadn't considered it, however, if you feel you can write an interesting answer about it that's fully appreciated. :) $\endgroup$
    – JJJ
    Jul 23 '18 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Any vibrations close & strong enough can do damage to something susceptible enough. Do you happen to know the minimum distance required between vehicles and property for flight operations in the Netherlands? $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Jul 24 '18 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Mast I do not, but there is a public road just next to the end of the runway at Gilze Rijen airport. Unfortunately, Google Streetview is redacted, however, the aerial view shows it pretty well. It does have warning signs for when planes are taking off or landing so you shouldn't cross at those times, no physical barriers (like many railway crossings would have) though. $\endgroup$
    – JJJ
    Jul 24 '18 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ I was under the impression that helicopters didn't need a runway, but luckily there's clearly a helicopter parked a little north of it, near the hangar. That is quite close to the road indeed. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Jul 24 '18 at 6:50

The article states that it's not even clear the damage was caused by the helicopters, that there is no other known incidence of such damage being caused by helicopters, and that a scientific study has shown that while in theory there could be damage such has not actually been shown to be caused.

In other words, it looks suspiciously like a group of people who want the helicopters gone from a nearby airbase lawyering up with some spurious and dubious claim for which there is no evidence whatsoever, hoping to win public opinion and probably environmentalists rather than having an actual legal case at all.

This is not unheard of in the Netherlands (and elsewhere).

So in short: the article in BN de Stem answers your question already: there is no known instance of such damage happening, and even in this case it's mere speculation that it's happened at all.

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    $\begingroup$ So, perhaps the more interesting question is how would you prove that damage was done by a helicopter, but I suspect that's an impossible question. $\endgroup$ Jul 23 '18 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ @stripybadger apart from flying a helicopter over a known good sample under controlled conditions using well described flight profiles until something happens, yeah. And even then you can't prove no damage could ever happen if only a different flight profile or number of exposures had been used. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jul 23 '18 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ And it's probably cheaper to replace a few solar panels than make a thorough test flying over a hundred times in possible unconclusive controlled test, also there's all the point in selling a image of being caring and friendly $\endgroup$
    – jean
    Jul 23 '18 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @stripybadger "How would you prove that damage was done by a helicopter?" You almost wouldn't. You'd show that the damage was consistent with damage that you've shown was created by helicopters under test conditions, and demonstrate that there were helicopters in the area at roughly the time when the actual damage occurred. $\endgroup$ Jul 23 '18 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Er, delete "almost" from my previous comment. I tried to edit from "almost certainly wouldn't" to "wouldn't" and failed. $\endgroup$ Jul 24 '18 at 12:23

My question is if anyone knows of any such damage (different from this report in the Netherlands) to (civilian) property caused by rattle noise from helicopters.

A personal anecdote: I used to live on the flight path of helicopters flying from Aberdeen airport to North Sea oil rigs. We would also see occasional Chinooks and Tornadoes from RAF Lossiemouth. We had a plate rack on the wall much like this one.

Two and three bladed helicopters and the Chinooks would make the plates rattle noisily. 5-bladed helicopters and Tornadoes were much quieter by comparison.

As to actual damage: only after multiple choppers managing to setup the right resonance plates (and teacups in a poorly-built cabinet) would move closer to shelf edges, but I don't remember anything breaking because we noticed it and would move them back or somewhere safer.

I can easily imagine loitering helicopters or an increased number would cause more of a problem. I wonder what they'd do to old cement and terracotta chimney pots.


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