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Quotes from Safety & Training, June 9

By Compiled by Andrew Parker, Managing Editor | August 1, 2010
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Quotes from Tuesday, June 8

Ernie Stephens, Rotor & Wing Editor-at-Large:

“Rule number one: If you leave with a helicopter, bring a helicopter back.”


“Until about a year ago, I was absolutely 100 percent against night vision goggles for single-pilot operation. I thought it was crazy, I thought it was suicidal and I would never do it. It was based on my experience back when I was a young tactical police officer back in the ‘80s when we used some of the old night vision equipment when we were doing tactical operations, hostage and barricade situations, counter-sniper positions. You’d put that night vision optic up to your eye and you’d take it away and you’re blind, you couldn’t see anything.”

“I had no idea what the new stuff was like until I went down to Florida and took an NVG course. The new stuff—you could put those night vision goggles on, take them off, and still see perfectly well. I’d only been under those NVGs maybe 20 minutes, and I was flying around shooting autorotations to little concrete platforms not much bigger that the size of this riser here. We were flying along [in the Everglades] and the instructor said, ‘OK there’s a spot that’s about a half-mile ahead, concrete pad, I want you to land on it.’ What pad? ‘Out there.’ Out there where? He said ‘OK, put the goggles on,’ and there it was. So I’ve become a convert. As it’s time to acquire new aircraft, you have to re-think everything, including your attitude about some of the things that you pooh-poohed 10 years ago.”

“Check your operation for safety-compromising issues that may have developed over time. Frequently—you know, frequently for a 24-hour fruit fly is every nanosecond, and frequently for a dinosaur is every 15 million years. You’re going to have to look at your own operation to figure out what frequently is, but there are a whole lot of things that may go into what has changed your situation the last time you looked. Are you handling a large number of clients? Are you taking care of a larger jurisdiction? What about your pilots, are they getting old? That’s not necessarily a change in your operation, but it’s a change in a part of your operation. If you’re going to have newer pilots coming in, you might want to design around the skills and talents of newer pilots. These are really all things you should take a look at.”

“This is all the technology that we all know is out here now, but we need to start thinking about what this is going to do for our operation. How much of the old stuff was great when you bought your helicopter, or when you came to work for that organization? Maybe it’s time to upgrade your aircraft, or to update the avionics in it.”

“You should make that new investment an investment in safety. Don’t just look at the Hobbs meters and the things like that, think about the next time you do an acquisition to start acquiring the instruments and the brand new technology that you’re going to need for your aircraft.”

Lee Benson, retired LA County Fire Department senior pilot and Rotor & Wing columnist:

“Why have a file that says: What are my aircraft needs? For Miami-Dade [Police Dept], a hurricane came through about 10 or 12 years ago, ripped the top of their hangar off, and boom—they’ve got no aircraft. … They were insured, they had the money, but were they up to speed about what do we really need, what’s available, what’s out there, and what should we put in our new aircraft? You should have some idea, I mean not right down to the last line, but if you’re the chief pilot, you’re the guy in charge of these programs. You should have some idea, if something happens—well, what am I going to do?”

“If you’re a project manager for LA County Fire, and they expect it online by June, and you’re not working with a completion house that has an ODA [organization designation authorization], and you’re doing a lot of outfitting of the aircraft—lot of STCs, you’re going to put a tank on it, a hoist, and put radios in it. And the FAA has already wrote a letter that says they’re not in a position to be able to guarantee the time it’s going to take to complete the STCs, the engineering staff is a little weak and they don’t have the overhead to do that anymore, you are opening yourself up for a huge problem. If you’re a major program and you’re doing a lot of mods on the aircraft, you really need to think about going to an ODA to have it done. Air Methods, Keystone, Edwards—there’s three or four more, but in the long run, it’s a safe bet from your position as project manager.”

“There’s a lot of pressure on the private [organizations]. If I go out as a public operator, and make a bad decision about aircraft acquisition, I might get my hand slapped but that will be about the end of it. If you’re on the private side, and you make a bad decision about buying an aircraft, you’re probably going to get fired.”

Keith Cianfrani, CEO of Keith Cianfrani Aviation Safety Consultants, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and Rotor & Wing columnist:

“To be a effective safety officer, you have to have a good command climate, whether it’s the civilian world, or the military world, you have to have that boss, that commander, that CEO or president of the company behind you. He has to give you the authority to make changes and get things done. I know from experience, many operators don’t have a program. They try to have one, maybe appoint a pilot for safety duties along with being a line pilot—that never works.”

“Hiring the right people, making sure your safety officer is trained—you’re not the only one that’s doing it, you’re the manager. You cannot be everywhere and every place.”

“When I first started my career in aviation, we used to wear a little red safety dot. People would ask, what’s the safety dot? And I said, we’re supposed to take time for safety. And then it evolved to the point where it is today—safety needs to be integrated into every aspect of our operation. We shouldn’t take time for safety, it should be a second thought that we just do.”

Sharon Desfor, president, HeliValue$:

“Operators should ask two questions when purchasing a helicopter: What is it worth today, and what will it be worth when I sell the helicopter, or renew the lease? When looking at various features, such as an EMS interior, what does it add to the helicopter’s value?”

“If you have something that is more expensive than the norm, or outside normal operating parameters, now we need to approach it in a different way. Some options will become so popular that they not only stop adding to the value of the helicopter, instead, you’re going to have a deduction if that helicopter doesn’t have it. If you’re flying a Bell 212, and it doesn’t have a cargo hook, then you have a problem at resale time—you’re going to need to put one on, or have an allowance for the buyer.”

“If you have a Sikorsky S-76, and it doesn’t have a cockpit voice recorder, you’re in trouble—nobody wants to go in today, in today’s market with the amount of supply out there, and pull a used helicopter, and have to keep it out of service to do a lot of installations on equipment that is not included. There’s simply too much available out there with a wide variety of equipment on it.”

Dan Deutermann, Squadron Inc. co-founder, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cdr. and Rotor & Wing columnist:

“The goal here is you want operational success, to minimize those costs and injuries.”

“We’ve already talked about mishap reporting. You’ve got to encourage people to look at you as the nice guy, and tell you what happened when they have little errors, and even big errors. Get them to explain the events, and document it. The only way you’re going to get trends out of that stuff is if you document it. Some great organizations have displayed how they’re looking at trends, but it’s in the non-punitive fashion. You’ve got to keep building and fortifying your safety system as a safety officer.”

“When you have a crash, here’s a little trick: look at your safety system and say, all right, our organization has had an accident. You’ve got to ask, if it is human error, did they go around your system, or through it? We talk about how 80–85 percent of the accidents are human error. If you start looking at those human errors, you have to ask, ‘Did I have something in place to stop that accident?’ An example: there’s a thunderstorm nearby, and there’s a company rule that thou shall not fly within five miles of thunderstorms. Now there’s an accident, and there was a storm nearby. Did that pilot willingly violate your SOP? If that was the cause of the crash—NTSB, everybody’s filtered through it—and there’s nothing wrong with the [helicopter], and at the crash site, they chalked it up to weather.”

“Did the pilot violate and go around your safety system? You had something there to prevent it. Now if you didn’t have a policy like that, and you had an accident, now you can say “Look, new policy guys.” That’s when you start making paperwork, new regulations. But try and avoid that as the safety officer—you don’t want to keep putting down rules for everybody. Look at what you’ve got, and when you have an accident, look at it: did the person go through it, or around it? … I’ll bet, most of the time, they went around it. That’s where you get complacency.”

“Nobody wants to get in an accident. When it happens, they may have gone around it, but you have to take that information, you ask why, as the safety guy, you can’t be putting them on the cross—you have to turn around and say, ‘All right, everybody sit down, and let’s talk about how we’re going to strengthen our culture, our safety system.’ If you get to that point, where you haven’t crucified this person, it’s a non-punitive action and hopefully the rest of us will avoid going around the system again.”

Michael Koenes, corporate safety manager, Air Methods:

“Schedule meetings. Make a definitive time, the second Tuesday of every month, we’re having a safety meeting. The important part—and this is where the communication skills come in—you need to conduct follow-ups with all of your folks to ensure that they understand the programs that you’re talking about, and you need to educate yourself on safety-related topics. There’s nothing wrong with re-calibrating on safety topics and company goals before you go out there and convey that message to employees.”

“If you read one hour a night on any given subject in your profession, you will become in the top 10 percent in your profession, as far as knowledge basis goes.”

“[SMS programs] don’t have to be aviation-related. Give your folks something to take home that they can make their families safe. Talk about poison control, talk about home safety, talk about the 101 critical days of summer—that will get the ball rolling and get them to starting think about safety in all aspects of their lives, not just when they’re in the cockpit flying from point A to B, but all the time. That’s where you change the core value of your folks and that’s where you’re going to start to change the safety culture of your company.”

“We need to convey to all the employees that the safety programs of a company do not belong to the safety department. The safety department is there for guidance, for oversight, but the safety programs belong to the employees in general. So there’s a responsibility of the department heads and the departments, that they need to structure and build their safety programs to accommodate the needs of the people, to ensure they have that safe working environment.”

Matt Wallace, safety director, Air Life Georgia:

“I’m going to steal a line from BJ [Raysor, director of aviation ops or Arkansas Children’s Hospital and IHST member]—you are where the rubber meets the road, absolutely, so you have to put your personality forward when you’re doing this. It’s a thankless job—sometimes it’s even an unpaid position—but your dedication to your training has to come through, to make sure that your operation not only is safe, but you have to follow along and so many other things come into play. Profitability, accomplishing the mission, other factors are all important, but the big thing is you’re the manager of making sure that safety is integrated into everything.”

“In a small operation, you may wear many hats—you’re the trainer and the person they always see. Delegate some of those smaller projects like slips, trips and falls, to some of the other pilots. Not only will it help inspire them to be a part of the safety program, like we said, everyone is a safety officer in the company, or in the unit, or whatever it is. So delegate some of that authority. Don’t wear out your welcome with all your people, with endless PowerPoints on slips, trips and falls.”

Quotes from Tuesday, June 8

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