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Editor’s Notebook: New and Improved

By James T. McKenna | July 1, 2007

IT’S FUNNY WHO YOU RUN INTO when you’re out and about. While in Paris for the biennial air show last month, I was weaving my way through the Metro subway system to a dinner appointment when I overheard an American getting directions in English to the same stop I had in my sights. At a transfer point, I noticed him turning in the wrong direction and steered him right, and so we struck up a conversation.

Seems he is a supply-chain expert from a firm that serves both the automotive and aerospace industry. He cut his teeth in autos, and has been brought over to re-order the other side of the house. The consensus in the winged industry, he said, is that it has a lot more to learn about continuous improvement. All evidence is that’s certainly true in rotorcraft.

We are undertaking some improvements of our own.

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The goal of that process is a worthy one: to continually move toward working in the most efficient manner to achieve optimum satisfaction of your customers. It is worthy of the rotorcraft industry, and it’s worthy of the magazine that covers it. They don’t stem from as disciplined a method as continuous improvement, but we are undertaking some improvements of our own.

As you will notice with this issue, we are introducing a number of new columns. There are several goals behind these changes. One is to aid you, our readers, in staying informed on developments in the regional markets of the rotorcraft world and in particular aspects of rotorcraft operations. Also, they are aimed at providing forums for Rotor & Wing readers involved in those regions and aspects to report and discuss their activities. Of course, those readers have had a home in our pages since R&W’s inception in 1967. These new columns will offer distinct pages for their discussions, which naturally run throughout the entire magazine as developments dictate.

To our regular regional-based commentaries, we are adding columns on the most important developing rotorcraft markets.

You know the regulars, for they have long covered their respective areas — Paris Bureau Chief Giovanni de Briganti, Latin America Bureau Chief Claudio Agostini in Brazil, and Pacific Rim Correspondent Barney O’Shea in Australia.

We are expanding that regional focus to include China, India, and Russia. The "Eye On" column will rotate its focus on each of those regions throughout the year.

Just as important as regional developments are those in specific aspects of our industry, and another new set of columns will address them.

We have presented periodic columns on operational specialties, such as our Offshore Notebook and EMS Notebook. Also in that set is our Law Enforcement column, which we supplemented with the new Public Safety column introduced with our May issue. It focuses on helicopter operations of public agencies other than law enforcement activities, such as firefighting, search-and-rescue, public emergency-medical, and homeland-defense services.

In the Law Enforcement column, Ernie Stephens has done a fine job of discussing police-related helicopter activities. He’s also helped launch the Public Safety column. This made sense to us since there are many areas of interest common to police and non-police helicopter operators among public agencies. This is just what Ernie covered with his first two Public Safety columns — the first on the challenge of retaining aircraft performance while specifying mission equipment for new helicopters and the second on the importance of checklists beyond the traditional, printed ones.

With that good foundation in place, Ernie will turn over writing the Public Safety column to a veteran of operations on which it focuses. We’ll introduce that author next month. Ernie also will continue to contribute to the Public Safety column

Other key areas that we felt warrant their own pages are the maintenance and engineering and design of rotorcraft.

Maintenance almost requires no explanation. It is the main driver of rotorcraft operating costs. The need to find more efficient ways to keep helicopters flying is constant and urgent. A column focused on the details of maintenance tasks, the overarching trends in the field, and the challenge of containing and reducing that aspect of operating costs will disseminate information on the topic and spur discussion of it.

We also are expanding our focus on engineering and design issues. Ray Prouty has long been admired for his ability to explain the intricacies of rotorcraft aerodynamics. This month, he offers the latest installment of his Ask Ray Prouty, the vehicle to offer explanations on the issues most intriguing or confounding to you. Ray is always ready to answer your questions and he (and we) urge you to e-mail questions to us when they strike you.

To his efforts, we are adding a new Engineering & Design column, which will provide a place for a veteran specialist in rotorcraft design to address matters of most interest to you. Engineering & Design will alternate in that column space with Ask Ray Prouty.

These columns are all intended to serve you, so let us know what you would like to see them cover. We’ll forward your suggestions and requests to our columnists and get their responses to you as quick as we can.

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