The International Helicopter Safety Team has set a very laudable goal of reducing the helicopter accident rate by 80% in four years. IHST set its target based on the success of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team which started in 1998 and helped reduce the commercial aviation accident rate by 83% in 2008.
The IHST did a thorough analysis of helicopter accidents that occurred in 2000, 2001 and 2006 and found that half of its accidents involve single engine turbine helicopters and that the 70% of the accidents occurred under Part 91 operations.
The statistics are not surprising since Part 91 operators may be the least capable to organized reforms and private operators may or may not have the resources to implement systems that enhance safety. The majority of helicopter operators fall into 2 categories – Part 135 on demand and Part 91. To achieve its objective in 4 years the IHST should establish 2 safety teams; one that looks at relevant ways to improve safety for Part 135 operators and the other for Part 91 operators.
In order for Part 135 helicopter operations to achieve safety parity with CAST, the operating environment, infrastructure, and the variable helicopter missions must be addressed. Technologies such as ADS-B to provide services outside the National Airspace System structure, real-time weather information, enhanced communications (i.e. VOIP) and other systems such as ground proximity warning information, traffic collision avoidance, in-cockpit weather displays, owner/operator flight following capabilities and enhanced VFR capabilities should be examined.
For reasons cited above lowering the Part 91 mishap rate is a bigger challenge that has to be creative in developing solutions that are inexpensive and achievable. Maybe the IHST should consider partnering with AOPA and address relevant safety issues together as there may be some similarities as it pertains to loss of control, pilot training, low altitude operations, human factors, experience and weather related mishaps.Share this article: