The National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) hosted its first helicopter safety day on Friday, 10 September 2010. Some 75 people attended this special event, devoted to improving helicopter flight safety.
Each year helicopters are involved in too many unnecessary accidents. In the Netherlands, there is approximately one accident per year, which sometimes results in fatalities, as was the case earlier this year at the Maasvlakte in Rotterdam. Consequently, various international initiatives, such as the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and the European Helicopter Safety Team (EHEST), have been set up to help reverse this (relatively constant) safety trend. NLR participates in the latter initiative.
In order to improve and promote helicopter safety in the Netherlands, NLR recently organized the first Dutch helicopter safety day. It proved however impossible to accept all applications to attend, so large was the interest among helicopter pilots (professional and private), instructors, owners, leasers, maintenance personnel, regulators, accident investigators, and others.
Over the course of the day, the various stakeholders in attendance exchanged knowledge and experiences in an effort to collectively strengthen helicopter safety levels. Some of the possible solutions put forward for improving safety included intensifying the â€˜culture of safetyâ€™, improving training, and introducing new technologies. For this, communication between the stakeholders (helicopter users, regulators, accident investigators, et al) is essential.
The helicopter safety day at NLR began with presentations given by NLRâ€™s AVHA (helicopter technology) and NLR-ATSI (safety management and accident investigations) departments. A representative from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) then lectured on the European contribution to the International Helicopter Safety Team, while also elaborating on the activities currently being undertaken by EHEST. Representatives from Shell Aircraft International and ANWB Medical Air Assistance then spoke about helicopter safety in their specific fields of operation. This was followed by a panel discussion, in which the participants discussed a range of key issues, including regulatory matters and whether or not maintenance personnel should be required to take annual â€˜aptitude testsâ€™ (as pilots are).
Finally, the participants were given a demonstration in NLRâ€™s helicopter simulator, theÂ Helicopter Pilot Station(HPS). This included a demo about sensor integration, in which infrared images are combined with a warning system for obstacles like electricity pylons, buildings or trees. Pilots view these images in theÂ Helmet Mounted Display.
Owing to the dayâ€™s great success, and the urgings of the participants, NLR will host a second helicopter safety day again next year. Moreover, the first speaker has already been booked for this event: a representative from the Dutch Safety Board will give a presentation about common helicopter accidents and how they can possibly be avoided. Meanwhile, IHST, inspired by this NLR initiative, has invited other countries to organize similar events.
View the presentations at the Helicopter Safety Day:
- European Helicopter Safety Team: Strength for helicopter safety (Dutch only)
- Heli-safety atÂ safety institute NLR-ATSI
- Helicopters and safety at NLR (Dutch only)
- Improving helicopter safety ‘threat’ or ‘chance’? (Dutch only)
- Shell: Helicopter Safety in the oil and gas industry (Dutch only)
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