A recent article by Rob Mark in FLYING MAGAZINE stated that the first six months of 2019 showed an alarming INCREASE in helicopter accidents, according to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST). This goes against the downward trend of helicopter accidents in recent years.
The USHST grew out of an industry-wide effort in 2005 to reduce the helicopter accident rate worldwide. Helicopter accident rates had remained unacceptably high and trends had not shown improvement when the first International Helicopter Safety Symposium (IHSS) was held in Montreal, Canada in September 2005 led by the American Helicopter Society (AHS) and the Helicopter Association International (HAI). Participants included operators, manufacturers, maintenance organizations, regulatory agencies, accident investigators, professional associations and press from thirteen countries.
The IHST set an aggressive goal of reducing the worldwide helicopter accident rate by 80% in 10 years (by 2016). The IHST chartered a Joint Helicopter Safety Analysis Team (JHSAT) to develop data-driven safety recommendations in pursuit of the goal to reduce the accident rate and fatality risk. The JHSAT membership consisted of key stakeholders in the helicopter design, manufacture, operation, training and regulatory communities. http://www.ushst.org/.
The USHST was created when U.S. government and U.S. industry leaders formed to address the factors affecting an unacceptable civil helicopter accident rate. It has established partnerships with significant helicopter stakeholders and has the vision to enable a civil helicopter community with NO fatal accidents. Its goal is to reduce the U.S helicopter fatal accident rate by 20% by the end of 2019 (20% by 2020). To do this, the USHST promotes safety publications and toolkits to operators across the country for maximum awareness of the USHST message. It also analyses accidents to get “lessons learned.”
FLYING MAGAZINE says that the USHST is encouraging operators, pilots, instructors and mechanics to rely on safety basics to manage risks. USHST is asking the industry to focus on seven key actions that will save lives.
- Carry enough fuel for unexpected situations. Ignoring minimum fuel reserve requirements is generally the result of overconfidence, a lack of flight planning, or deliberately ignoring regulations.
- Conduct an adequate preflight inspection. Use a checklist and a final walk around to determine the condition of an aircraft prior to flight. Post-flight inspections are also important.
- Recognize the Potency of OTC Medications. Don’t underestimate the effects of OTC medications and the impairment caused by these sedating drugs. OTC medication usage by pilots remains a factor in 10 to 13 percent of aircraft accidents.
- Stop Scud Running. Flying at low altitudes to avoid clouds or bad weather is dangerous and can result in collisions with terrain or wires and towers.
- VFR Flight in IMC can be fatal. It is even more dangerous if the pilot is not instrument qualified or is unwilling to believe what the gauges are indicating and an inability to recognize deteriorating conditions.
- Avoid Get-There-Itis. Don’t let decision-making be impaired by fixating on the original goal, disregarding alternative courses of action.
- Don’t be Afraid to Divert, Turn Around or Land. Always make sure you have an alternative course of action available. Don’t be afraid to land and live.
James T. Crouse has been a pilot for thirty-two years, during which time he has performed as a U.S. Army aircraft maintenance officer, maintenance test pilot, and research and development test pilot. Mr. Crouse has litigation experience involving major air carriers, general aviation, helicopter, and military crashes, as well as non-aviation mass disaster litigation.