Products, Services, Training

Safety Training, Awareness Take Center Stage at Heli-Expo

By By Keith Cianfrani | March 19, 2013

Walking through the long hallways of the Las Vegas Convention Center during HAI’s Heli-Expo in early March, I didn’t have to go far to see some sort of ongoing safety event. Whether it was a class on accident prevention, HFACS or safety management systems (SMS), the show was overwhelmingly conspicuous with safety awareness. I was impressed with the number of members who wanted to learn more about SMS or other safety initiatives. My plan going into Heli-Expo was to find every safety training session, town hall and safety committee meeting to observe what topics were under discussion.

Heli-Expo started with the Safety Symposium and guest speaker Robert Sumwalt from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). He spoke on SMS, its four components and why it is important. He focused on the importance of providing corporate flight departments with a formal safety management program. He finished by asking the question, “Do you have a good safety culture?” It’s doing the right thing when no one is looking. SMS must be used every day and rules must be written so that people can follow them, not just to cover legal issues, Sumwalt noted.

During HAI’s annual Board Meeting and Press Conference, we talked about the statistics of the event. There were more than 60 aircraft on display and 20,000-plus attendees. HAI boasts a membership of 3,355 organizations, which includes members in 71 countries. There were more than 1,000 students attending classes with over 50 courses offered including 20 dedicated to safety.


At the Safety Directors Forum, HFACS and our role in accident prevention was a main topic. We then discussed the Heinrich ratio, which states that 95 percent of accidents are human error and for every fatal accident there are 10 non-fatal incidents, 30 reportable incidents and 600 at-risk behavioral actions.
Other HAI-offered Rotor Safety Challenge Education courses included Quantum Safety Metrics, SMS, Safety Training, Operational Risk Management, Aeronautical Knowledge vs. What Pilots Should Know, Creating a Just Culture, Accident Causation, Safety Management, Human Factors in Accident Prevention, Safety Issues in Helicopter Maintenance and IS-BAO audit qualification courses.

Safety Town Hall Meeting

HAI Safety Committee and IHST member Terry Palmer hosted the Safety Town Hall Meeting. First up was Red Bull Helicopter Aerobatic Pilot Chuck Aaron, who is the only helicopter aerobatic pilot with FAA approval. He spoke on his background and how he performs in his specially designed MBB 105. He emphasized safety discipline in all aspects of his flying. He stated that he has countless hours of experience and encouraged everyone not to try aerobatic maneuvers. He hopes to inspire young engineers and other aviation professionals to develop and design better aircraft. Aaron also stated he always has an exit strategy while flying as he develops a process for new maneuvers prior to every new flight profile. By FAA agreement, Aaron is allowed to pull no more than 1.0 negative-G and 3.5 positive-G forces.

TSI Moral Courage Award

For me, the highlight of Heli-Expo was the presentation of first annual “Moral Courage Award,” sponsored by the U.S. Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Both aircrew members and organizations from several categories of the rotorcraft community were eligible for nomination. These nominations indicate that choosing the safest course of action may not yield an immediate profit, and might not give the appearance of the most heroic decision, however, it takes “moral courage” to do the right thing.

This year there were two recipients—Bond Offshore Helicopter and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Bond award focused around two maintainers who were not comfortable about releasing an aircraft (despite getting a thumbs-up from the OEM), and how management backed them up and delayed the flight until the concern was rectified. (See “Every Day Safety Plan,” Rotor & Wing, November 2012, page 4). Receiving the award was Bond Aviation CEO Richard Mintern on behalf of offshore maintenance technicians Sean Newlands and John Crowthers.

The other recipient was USCG for a decision made by the crew of a MH-60T based out of Air Station Kodiak, Alaska. This crew made a tough call to abandon a rescue attempt because to the high risk of the mission—something the Coast Guard almost never does. Receiving the award was Lt. Adam Spencer.

I’d like to express sincere gratitude to TSI, Embry-Riddle and Stan Rose of HAI for recognizing the need for this award that emphasizes safety. The message is simple—safe operational practices ensure operational success and sustained profitability. What’s more, if we recognize the organization for supporting the decision of the crew we will send a huge message to the industry that a positive safety culture is attainable, meaningful, and preferred. The Moral Courage award will provide a huge opportunity to promote and foster a positive safety culture by recognizing crewmembers and organizations who demonstrate commitment to conducting safe operations. Start sending your nominations for next year’s award.

The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) announced that Robinson Helicopter CEO Kurt Robinson has joined its Executive Committee and will be co-chairman. ISHT is a cooperative multi-year effort between government, helicopter associations, and industry whose function is to address issues related to helicopter safety. The IHST’s mission is to reduce accident rate by 80 percent by 2016 and then to “Zero Accidents and Zero Tolerance.”

As the convention came to a close and I took a final walk around the convention floor. I had a good feeling that safety management was alive and well. I was glad to see an emphasis on safety with smaller operators, heightened safety awareness and a genuine zest for learning safety management. Bravo!
Related: Safety & Training News

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