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Heard in the Hallways: Safety in the Market?

By Staff Writer | December 1, 2007

It seems likely the helicopter industry faces that prospect, with a number of international, national, and corporate efforts to improve its safety record.

The harbinger is commercial airlines. Ten years ago, they undertook to cut the global accident rate 80 percent. Then, conventional thinking was that safety data was best discussed behind closed doors, among professionals. The efforts of airlines and regulators have succeeded, leading FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Nick Sabatini (a former NYPD helo pilot) to say Oct. 8, " We are living in the safest period in the history of aviation."

But some airlines didn’t buy in, and the airline industry made a remarkable decision: If an airline didn’t heed the findings of industry-sponsored safety audits, the industry would make the audits public and allow travelers to decide who was safe to fly. Borrowing a line from an old men’s wear store, their philosophy was, "An educated consumer is our best customer."

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The helicopter industry is adopting many approaches used by airlines 10 years ago in its pursuit of an 80-percent accident-rate reduction. So it may not be long before we start talking of educated consumers, too.

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