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US Group Plans 2016 Helo Infrastructure Forum

By Staff Writer | November 1, 2015

The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team wants to examine how heliports, weather reporting and low-level IFR infrastructure could be improved to better reduce rotorcraft accidents.

It is working with FAA officials to organize a one-and-a-half-day meeting in Washington in mid-to-late February 2016 for high-level discussions of those issues and how to prioritize and pursue improvements.

Like counterparts in Europe and elsewhere, the U.S. team is a regional partner of the International Helicopter Safety Team; it updates the latter on its activities but pursues projects on its own. In addition to addressing the previously mentioned issues, the February forum is intended to revitalize efforts to reduce civil helicopter accident rates.

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Since its founding in 2005, the international team’s goal had been to cut those rates 80% by 2016. It is unlikely to achieve that goal.

The U.S. team’s members have been discussing organizing an infrastructure forum for two years. In moving forward with planning, the team is drawing in part on a successful effort launched in 2006 to develop an easy-to-use tool to help air ambulance pilots mitigate their risk of being involved in weather-related accidents.

That effort brought together in focused meetings most key industry and government stakeholders, including representatives of the Assn. of Air Medical Services, air ambulance operators, the National Emergency Medical Services Pilots Assn., the FAA and the federally funded National Center for Atmospheric Research.

That effort produced the Helicopter EMS Weather Tool, which advocates say “has been embraced by every HEMS pilot with open arms and has become an integral part of their weather decision-making.”

The advocates say it also has been adopted by fixed-wing aviation entities for weather reporting below 5,000 ft and by “numerous non-aviation agencies for many diversified applications.” A ”HEMS weather summit” was convened in 2013 to discuss how to improve the tool.

The forum planning group aims to involve all key divisions and offices of the FAA, as well as representatives of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., the National Business Aviation Association and the National Assn. of State Aviation Officials.

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