Paul Ratté, insurance underwriter USAIG’s director of aviation safety programs and a former Coast Guard helicopter pilot and station commander, called for additional layers of organizational support for first-responder missions during his HAI safety challenge presentation here yesterday.
While noting that the general aviation accident rate has improved steadily since 1960, Ratté noted that “we’re in the slog now” with accident rate improvement becoming more difficult. The chief reason for that, he said, is that initial safety gains were made due to mechanical improvements in aircraft, with the next surge coming from a better understanding of human factors. Future gains, Ratté said, are likely to come from strengthening organizations and their ability to support and provide more resources to flight crews, particularly for decision-making. Ratté noted the recent FAA mandate in the new helicopter rule for EMS pilot risk assessments before mission launch as part of the increasing focus on organizational performance to enhance safety. He said the risk assessment requirement could delay first responder helicopter launches by up to 10 minutes.
Ratté gave the following example of how increased decision support might work: a low-risk mission would be at the flight crew’s discretion, a medium-risk would require middle management concurrence, such as the approval of a dispatcher and a high-risk mission would require the approval of those two layers and the director of operations. While pilots may not always see it as such, “adding a decision layer” almost always enhances safety, Ratté said.