IHST focuses on helping operators enhance safety

IHST focuses on helping operators enhance safety


The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) is building on several years of helicopter accident analyses to distill and present more information that pilots, mechanics, and small- and medium-sized operators can put to use every day to enhance safety.

The executive committee of the team, which is pursuing a goal of cutting helicopter accident rates 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2016, held a quarterly meeting Jan. 18-19 at HAI’s Alexandria, Va. headquarters (photo, below). One focus of the meeting was to craft a plan for better supporting helicopter operators in applying the lessons of past accidents.

“We recognize that everybody today is inundated with information from every direction,” said HAI President Matt Zuccaro, who is co-chair of the international team with Kim Smith, manager of the FAA’s Rotorcraft Directorate. “IHST’s hard work has produced great data that every helicopter pilot, mechanic and helicopter operator should be aware of.  We intend to make it easy for them to put that data to work.”

Those lessons are based on the team’s analysis of U.S. and European helicopter accident data for several calendar years—over 500 from 2000, 2001, and 2006 in the U.S. and more than 300 from 2000 through 2005 in Europe—and reviews of previous accident analyses from a variety of sources. The various analyses consistently identified private-recreational flying and flight instruction as the categories experiencing the highest accident rates while noting inadequate management of known or easily identifiable risks to safe flight as among the most common contributing causes.

“The IHST has done a lot of studies on the most common causes of helicopter accidents and what we can do to head them off,” said Smith.  “Enhanced awareness and education are critical to reducing the helicopter accident rate.”

The IHST is now focusing on a twofold approach to helping private-recreational fliers, flight instructors and solo student pilots from repeating the mistakes of past crash victims. First, in the U.S. the team is collaborating with the FAA’s eight regional FAA Safety Teams (or FAASTeams) to include the lessons derived from the IHST analyses in their frequent local safety briefings for general aviation pilots. Second, the team is developing briefing material, tailored to specific helicopter missions, that FAASTeams can use to reinforce those lessons for pilots as well as small- and medium-sized operators. That tailored briefing material will also be disseminated through aviation trade magazines and online through organizations like HAI. European members have produced training briefings covering safety hazards such as degraded visual environments, loss of tail-rotor effectiveness and rollover.

The twofold approach will complement the IHST’s work in producing an assortment of tool kits for operators to use in tackling specific challenges, such as implementing a safety management system and improving risk management. Those resources are available at the Web sites for IHST and its European team.

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