Commercial, Regulatory, Training

Editor’s Notebook: Practice Makes Perfect

By By Andrew Parker, Editor-in-Chief | August 1, 2012
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What do Al Pacino, a squirrel and a moose, the “human operating system,” rogue management, graphical world charts, lions and bears, dangerous behavior, SMS toolkits and safety videos all have in common? OK, maybe those last two gave it away, but they’re all subjects that have appeared in the International Helicopter Safety Team’s recent “Safety Notes” campaign.

Over the past three-plus months (since mid-April), IHST has been sending out e-mails each week focusing on different aspects of safety and training. The group is falling short of its goal to reduce helicopter accidents 80 percent worldwide by 2016, but progress is still being made to push the trend downward, as the rate has decreased by 30 percent in the past five years (since 2006 when IHST began its accident reduction efforts) vs. 2001-2005.

According to figures from the group, the worldwide civil accident rate decreased from 9.7 accidents per 100,000 operating hours during 2001-2005 to around 5.7 accidents per 100,000 from 2006-2011. IHST’s target is to bring that figure down to 1.9 accidents per 100,000 by 2016.


In addition to the SMS toolkits, safety videos, training tips, etc., there is some really interesting material that’s worth a look. August is one of the months that Rotor & Wing puts a heavy focus on training (features include “Era Training Center Profile” on page 22, “Rotorcraft Training Guide” on page 30, “Hot Blade Exercise” on page 44, “Training News” on page 48 and “Safety Watch” on page 52), so it’s appropriate to highlight a few excerpts of what I’ve found interesting in reading through the IHST Safety Notes material.

Take a look at the IHST toolkits and safety programs at, and join the cause to help reduce helicopter accidents worldwide. Fly Safe!

From “What’s the Operating Status of the Most Critical System on Your Helicopter?” by IHST team member Lee Roskop:

“Consider the importance of the ‘human system.’ The pilot (and crew, if applicable) is arguably the most important operating system on the helicopter. Yet, one of three scenarios typically is true when it comes to assessing the health of the ‘human system’ before each flight: 1). We don’t do it, 2). We aren’t honest with ourselves if we do take the time to do it, or 3). We don’t consistently take the right action even if we know our ‘system’ isn’t quite right…”

“When our system is operating at its worst, it still has to be good enough to handle the most challenging situation while we fly. None of us would ever think about taking an aircraft to fly if maintenance told us that one of the critical systems was only working at less than 50 percent of what we could normally expect. Given the importance of the ‘human system’ for safer flying and preventing accidents, it’s imperative that we apply the same stringent standard of minimum acceptable performance to our own bodies.”

From “How Safe is Dangerous?” by IHST team member Scott Tyrrell:

“Former pilot and internationally recognized expert in the field of aviation human error Tony Kern explains this issue succinctly: ‘Failures of flight discipline can—in a single instant—overcome years of skill development, in-depth systems knowledge and thousands of hours of experience.’

The aviation community must demand accountability at all levels so that full adherence to the highest level of flight discipline will ensure the safest flying environment. ‘At Risk’ Behavior—a behavior in which an individual is willing to assume ‘unnecessary risks’ while performing a particular task in his or her everyday life—along with rogue management, operations, pilots, aircrew and maintainers have no place in the profession of aviation.”

From “A Plea to Personal/Private Operators” by Lee Roskop:

“The number of helicopter accidents in the personal/private category is not at all proportionate to the number of flight hours flown. In fact, there is a stunningly large gap between the low percentage of U.S. helicopter hours flown in personal/private operations as compared to the high percentage of U.S. helicopter accidents. The bottom line in the comparison is that for the 10 years analyzed, the personal/private category accounted for only about 5 percent of U.S. helicopter hours flown, yet resulted in 20 percent of the helicopter accidents.”


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