NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman, keynote speaker at today’s HAI Membership breakfast and meeting here at Heli-Expo 2011, praised HAI for its creation of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and its new Safety Accreditation Program. And she also challenged the HAI membership to continue its efforts to promote Safety Management Systems (SMS) through IHST’s SMS Toolkit.
Hersman brought with her, and publicly recognized, six members of the NTSB team, including senior air safety investigator Clint Johnson and air safety investigators Leah Yeager, Dennis Hogensen and Van McKinney; NTSB board member Mark Rosekind; and deputy director for aviation safety Sandy Rowlett.
When asked, later why she chose to bring so many NTSB staff to the HAI show, she replied, “I think HAI Heli-Expo is incredibly important to the industry. The NTSB spends a lot of time investigating accidents, but really half of that is letting people know about what we do and what we’ve found so that we can prevent those accidents from happening again.”
Continuing, Hersman said, “Through our NTSB accident investigations we can tell the industry what we’ve found or what we’ve seen. Whether it is a mechanical or maintenance issue or even a human factors issue, there is a lot of learning that goes on.”
But she said that the industry “can’t prevent the next accident unless we learn from the ones we are studying” and “it is the operators, more than anyone, who want to have a safe business, a safe system. And it is great for us to interact with them at shows such as Heli-Expo 2012.”
When asked about NTSB’s contributions to IHST efforts, she was quick to clarify, “You know we do not sit on committees, such as IHST, as voting members. That is something that HAI, FAA and the helicopter industry created together. However we’ve seen that SMS, and particularly data collection, can be helpful in reaching the NTSB goal of zero fatalities.”
Hersman gave example of the commercial fixed-wing industry, “where people didn’t think we could get to zero fatalities. And now we’ve had a couple of years where we did indeed get there. That can be attributed to CAST,” she said, “the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, which really identified things that needed to be done and solutions to get to that target.”
Hersman sees IHST as comparable to CAST, as the two organizations clearly have similar missions and goals.
She lingered on the issue of SMS being integrated into the helicopter-industry culture and suggested that IHST’s SMS Toolkit was a perfect example of an industry template that can help. “I think that it is extremely important to make sure that the SMS can be customized to the size and scope of your operation,” she said. “I think small operators, in particular, can benefit [from the IHST kit] and the majority of these businesses are small operators with one or two helicopters. They don’t have a lot of staff to implement an SMS, and customization is key for them.”
Above and beyond changing the culture of helicopter operations, Hersman hopes to see an FAA mandate requiring video and data recording devices in all helicopters one day.
“This morning we were visiting American Eurocopter and Appareo,” she told AIN. “Both of these companies are using video and data recording on their models now and into the future. Appareo produced these for Bristow Helicopter to use like a check pilot in the helicopter with their crews. Bristow has had great results the last few years, logging zero fatalities. And they have operations all over the world.
“So, when people think it is pie-in-the-sky, and you can’t get to zero, well, I think you can,” she said confidently.
Hersman and her staff planned to spend time interacting with Heli-Expo 2012 attendees in the NTSB booth, No. 8536.