HAI Convention News

Flight Safety Foundation Highlights Helicopter Priorities

 - March 4, 2013, 10:15 AM

The Flight Safety Foundation is highlighting rotorcraft topics at Heli-Expo. “Our mission is to be advocates of the best aviation safety practices in the world,” said president and CEO Kevin Hiatt. “Based on what we’re observing at the foundation, we need to understand more about helicopter operations as a whole and to foster a safety-centric culture.”

Too often, he explained, the safety practices that do exist are tribal in nature, created by operators, pilots, flight department managers and mechanics.

At the foundation’s Heli-Expo exhibit (Booth No. C7104), the emphasis is on five areas it believes are key to turning around the relatively high accident rate in the helicopter community.

Safety audits, in particular the model exemplified by the Basic Aviation Risk Standard, can be applied to various categories of rotorcraft operations, in particular EMS, industrial, charter and sightseeing.

Increased communication in identifying best safety practices and other forms of information sharing is encouraged through the International Helicopter Safety Team as well as other working groups and forums.

Standard operating procedure compliance has been highlighted by a recent spate of rotorcraft accidents, especially last fall. While major strides in safety can be made in the near term through compliance with existing rules, new initiatives may be needed to account for increasingly diverse helicopter operations.

Fostering a safety-centric culture is necessary in the rotorcraft community. “Sadly, among some operators, there exists a tolerance for suboptimal decision-making, especially with regard to varying flight conditions, urgency of mission and the fundamental conflict between profitability and the necessity of operations.”

Laser targeting is an increasingly common experience judging by reports by pilots who have experienced a temporary disorientation as a result of lasers being point at them. This justifies a more concerted effort to combat a potentially catastrophic problem. One solution may be working with the FDA, possibly encouraging a reduction in laser device power and sales, as well as more coordinated and vigorous action by the FAA and local law enforcement.” The foundation emphasizes that lasers are not toys and there have been reports of retinal damage to crews operating at lower and slower altitudes typical of helicopters.

The Helicopter Association International has its own safety team and they are doing a great job, acknowledged Hiatt, adding, “We’re also here to help promote their work in this regard. And we hope to get a read on what our next steps might be, perhaps a series of safety workshops and seminars or a partnership with HAI on future programs.”

Flight Safety Foundation has a full-time staff of 15 at its headquarters in Alexandria, Va., and another six employees in Australia running a basic aviation risk standards program. Australia, Hiatt noted, has a large helicopter community that services one of the world’s most active mining industries. There are foundation affiliates in other parts of the world, including Africa, the Middle East and Taipei. FSF has more than 1,000 members, ranging from individuals to corporations to government entities.