HAI president Matt Zuccaro asked his constituents a commonsense question that is at the core of the organization’s new safety program, Land & Live: “We land on mountaintops, buildings, ships, oil platforms….so, why don’t we land the helicopter when an accident chain begins? What is that?”
It turns out that helicopter pilots and their support staff are, in general, programmed to complete missions. “There’s almost a psychological block to landing short of the mission profile, not reaching the original destination,” explained Zuccaro. “But that’s got to change,” he continued. “We are trying to remove the pilot’s decision making from what is going on in the back of the helicopter because it should not affect the decisions that the pilot makes regarding the safety of the flight. If the pilot makes the safe aeronautical decision, everyone lives. That’s the real world. Do you want to risk the lives of all on board for the patient? A bad decision can be the beginning of the accident,” he exclaimed.
Add Precautionary Landings to Toolkit
The Land & Live program officially launched at Heli-Expo 2014 is designed to educate pilots, dispatchers, flight department administrators and company executives about the essentially benign procedure, especially among helicopters, of the precautionary landing.
“There is a perception that the FAA is going to look hard at all precautionary landings, but that stigma is just untrue. If the landing is done properly there is absolutely no problem,” admonished Zuccaro, who then paraded FAA and NTSB representatives onto the stage at Heli-Expo to back him up. “Our member companies who know about this project support it. They absolutely want to stop the accident chain, requesting training materials that we are developing; even requesting decals to put on the instrument panel of their fleet that say “land & live” to remind pilots,” he said. Both IHST and USHST have produced supporting bulletins for the program.
The gist of the program is simple, and therein lies its power. Unanticipated IMC for which you are not equipped? Land. Low-fuel light on? Land. Potential mechanical problem crops up that could lead to disaster? Land now and troubleshoot the problem on the ground. “Don’t worry about law enforcement coming to check you out. They are onboard and just want to know that everyone is alright,” said Zuccaro.
Components of the program include an explanatory set of web pages (LandAndLive.rotor.org), aimed at pilots, operators and first responders. It includes analyses of six accidents and information on picking a suitable landing spot. The site includes suggested language for ops manuals, as well as a pilot’s rights and responsibilities regarding safety of flight.
Other program projects include a road-show seminar by HAI director of safety Stan Rose. Future projects may include an online safety seminar and seminar-in-a-box, as well as a safety-reporting service designed specifically to identify decision making that leads to precautionary landings, in particular ones that save lives. “We are going to develop a column in Rotor magazine in the line of ‘I learned about flying from that,’” said Zuccaro.
You can learn more about Land & Live today during a special Rotor Safety Challenge session in the Anaheim Convention Center’s Ballroom C, at 3 p.m. But be ready to “take the pledge” to make precautionary landings part of your safety tool kit. Zuccaro is on a mission, and he’ll convince you to join him, rest assured.