Helicopter Safety Remains a Work in Progress

 - January 21, 2013, 2:25 PM

The International Helicopter Safety Team’s continuing goal is to reduce the civil helicopter accident rate by 80 percent by 2016 and avoid another near-record week like it experienced in October 2012 when eight lives were lost in four separate accidents in just eight days.

The IHST believes a number of pilot behavior patterns cause the vast majority of accidents, including the need by some aviators to prove they have “the right stuff” to fly in all situations.

The IHST recently developed a list of 12 operational pitfalls based on dangerous behaviors that any helicopter crew will benefit from reviewing. These include responding to peer pressure. The correct action is to make objective decisions rather than emotional ones. Pilots must stop scud running, in which they push their capabilities and the aircraft’s by trying to maintain visual contact with the terrain while also trying to avoid physical contact with the ground. Losing situational awareness is a nice way of saying the pilot has lost track of his position relative to objects or weather that might endanger the flight. Too often, pilots allow the helicopter to exceed its design parameters, which translates into an unjustified reliance on the (usually mistaken) belief that the aircraft’s high performance capabilities meet the demands imposed by the pilot’s (usually overestimated) high performance flying skills.