Military, Training

Helicopter Safety & Training

By By Keith Cianfrani | April 4, 2011

This month I decided to take a different direction in discussing aviation safety by writing about HAI’s Heli-Expo in March. I was part of the Rotor & Wing editorial team covering the event and spent much of my time at the magazine’s booth talking to pilots, manufacturers, safety officers and other aviation safety enthusiasts. All one has to do is walk around the display areas to see how safety products and consultants are helping the aviation community manage their risks.

I focused most of my attention on the safety workshops and seminars during the convention, attending all of the safety classes and seminars that were held during the four-day event. These included Safety Management, Safety Management System (SMS) and Advanced SMS workshops, as well as Safety Culture for Leaders, Human Factors, SMS Maintenance, SMS for Leaders and the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) Trainer Workshop. The guest speakers were from all areas of the aviation industry.

Many well-known helicopter operators attended, as well as many aviators and safety officers from the military. There were representatives from PHI, Bristow Academy, FlightSafety International, Erickson Air Crane, FAA and several aviation safety consultant business owners like myself.


The overall theme of safety at this event was SMS and a “Just Culture” philosophy of bringing the safety effort into normal management framework in an organization. Once again this focused on risk management.

The convention began with a safety symposium with guest speaker Mike Hurst, chief pilot of PHI. He spoke about the organization’s safety program, known as, “Just Culture in a Safety Management System.” PHI’s goal is called Destination Zero, which was a review of the entire company to include leadership and the overall “safety philosophy.” PHI practices a just culture that encourages all employees to report safety concerns and violations without repercussions.

In the SMS for Leaders session, we talked about factors that affect safety management, such as leadership, training, standardization and discipline, and how company leadership must “buy into” the safety culture. On the second day, the HAI Safety Team hosted a Town Safety Meeting. This session was very productive, as it gave the audience an opportunity to discuss a variety of safety issues. My main interest was talking about how smaller helicopter operators with limited resources manage a safety program and mitigate risks.

On Monday, IHST, with Terry Palmer of FlightSafety Intl, hosted a session in support of IHST’s goal to reduce worldwide helicopter accidents by 80 percent in 10 years. The first topic, which PHI hosted, was called “Safety Culture from a Hiring Perspective.” Another session from Bristow’s Safety and Training Team was titled, “Target Zero.” These were followed by a session on improving safety through industry specific training, IHST proposals for changes to FAA practical test standards and safer autorotation practices, and finally the role of flight training devices. Once again we had experts in the field discussing their opinions regarding each area of training. We discussed the benefits of FTDs and simulators, hurdles that must be overcome, training and financial considerations, cost offset and pilot expenses. The Human Factors session discussed why aviators make the same mistakes over and over because of poor pilot decision-making. We also discussed our CFIs, and if they are teaching the proper methods of flying. (See “Who is Teaching the Teacher?” November issue, page 50.)

The best part of the convention was how the audience became engaged in each session. The guest speakers shared their expertise with the audience, but it was group involvement that proved most beneficial. Interaction with all of the members from different areas of the aviation community helped make this a true success. The attendees included line pilots, safety managers, and even some company presidents. I’d like to recognize Matt Zuccaro, HAI and the HAI Safety Committee for sponsoring all the safety-focused seminars during Heli-Expo—another professional and informative convention.

In future articles I’ll explore more of these topics in greater detail. It was refreshing to see many aviators and safety professional participate in these important events. Each person left the seminars with a more energized attitude toward safety and risk management. We all shared a very genuine “aviation safety enthusiasm.” I’m sure next year’s Heli-Expo will continue to build on past efforts. I know I’ll be there. Fly Safe! 

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