The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) has uncovered ways that flight instructors can improve safety. After analyzing helicopter accidents that resulted in fatalities, the team compiled a list of six potentially lifesaving methods flight instructors can use:
Teach the Importance of Pre-Flight Risk Assessment
"Flight instructors and new pilots would benefit from guidance on accepted best practices for conducting a full and comprehensive risk assessment prior to a training flight. This information would identify inherent risks and allow mitigation to be implemented and risk to be minimized," the team said. "The USHST believes that standard guidelines for pre-flight risk assessments on training flights should be established and circulated widely."
Provide Competency-Based Training and Assessments
"In its analysis, the USHST determined that 17 percent of fatal accidents involved pilot decision errors attributable to poor knowledge of aircraft performance and limitations, inflight power and energy management, basic maneuvers essential to aircraft control, aircraft systems, or familiarity with the Pilot Operating Handbook," the team said. "In general, the accidents stemmed from a lack of basic competency to operate the aircraft safely, effectively and efficiently. The USHST believes that recommended practices would improve training for initial helicopter pilot applicants."
Teach Threat and Error Management
"While traditional decision-making models focus largely on reactive and proactive means of flight crew situation management, Threat and Error Management uses a predictive process to eliminate threats and errors before, during and after each flight," the team said. "The USHST believes that the introduction of Threat and Error Management practices should be incorporated into initial and recurrent helicopter training courses."
Train Pilots to Recognize Spatial Disorientation
"In the USHST analysis, one out of 10 fatal accidents were linked to spatial disorientation being a cause or a contributing factor to a pilot’s incapacitation," the team said. "The USHST believes that fatal accidents would be reduced if available simulator technology and training scenarios on recognition and recovery from spatial disorientation could be used more widely."
Incorporate Progressive Approaches to Training Autorotations
"Experience with progressive approaches in the training of autorotation maneuvers will help pilots to avoid fatal consequences stemming from unexpected inflight problems," the team said. "The USHST believes that flight instruction should include more emphasis on recommendations outlined in FAA Advisory Circular 61-140A, which contains topics such as higher entry point and lower entry point autorotations, 300-feet agl decision checks, and turning autorotation techniques."
Improve Simulator Training for Outside-the-Envelope Conditions
"Current models for simulator training are not accurate at edge-of-the-envelope and outside-the-envelope flights scenarios and this may lead to unrealistic training for maneuvers such as loss of tail rotor effectiveness, vortex ring state/settling with power, and autorotation procedures," the team said. "As a result, the training may not be as effective when these situations are encountered during an actual flight. The USHST believes that improvements to simulator models can be achieved in order to address these limitations in current simulator training."