FAA & industry working together achieves Helicopter Safety Improvements

Helicopter Safety improvements
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Helicopter Safety Improvements

Reports from the FAA, USHST & IHST

Helicopters pose some significant safety challenges. The aircraft design and propulsion are dramatically different from fixed wing. They develop stresses which require different engineering as well as create risks which are almost unique to these vehicles.

Thus, it is not entirely unexpected that helicopters have not had the greatest safety history:

Helicopter Safety improvements

News releases by the FAA and USHST provide great and somewhat surprising news:

USHSTHelicopter Safety improvements

 Accident rates for the U.S. civil helicopter industry were pushed downward as safety lifted upward during 2016. Preliminary data shows that the 2016 accident rate was 19 per 100,000 flight hours, compared to an accident rate in 2015 of 3.67. This 13 percent decrease continues a downward trend in helicopter accidents since 2013 and maintains an improving safety record for the industry. The fatal accident rate remained statistically the same year-over-year, but was considerably lower than the 2016 goal set by the United States Helicopter Safety Team.

✓  Reducing fatal accidents even further is a central USHST aim. From 2016 through 2019, the USHST is focusing major attention on reducing fatal accidents within the U.S. civil helicopter community. The industry-government partnership is targeting a reduction by 2019 to 0.61 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The fatal accident rate goal for 2016 was 0.73 or lower, and for 2017, it is 0.69.

 A team of U.S. government and U.S. industry leaders formed to address the factors affecting an unacceptable civil helicopter accident rate.

A civil helicopter community with zero accidents.

Establish partnerships with significant helicopter operations and encourage development and implementation of safety interventions by sharing lessons learned through accident analysis.

Zero Tolerance = Zero Accidents
Reduce the civil helicopter accident rate by 80% by 2016.
Reverse any negative trend and improve safety culture in the helicopter industry.
Promote safety publications and toolkits to operators across the country for maximum awareness of the USHST message.



Helicopter Safety improvements

Accident Rate
Accident Rate
2016 106 3.19 17 0.51
2015 121 3.67 17 0.52
2014 138 4.26 21 0.65
2013 146 4.95 30 1.02

 “The FAA and the helicopter industry have worked together to educate the civil helicopter community about safe practices, to drive these improved results,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The FAA and the industry also are taking an active role in advancing safety through new technology, collaborative policy changes and proactive outreach.”

 The FAA and the helicopter industry have worked together through groups such as the International Helicopter Safety Team and the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team to prevent accidents. The effort is achieving success through a series of proactive measures:

✓  Creating a culture of safety– The FAA has encouraged helicopter companies and individual pilots to promote safety in the workplace. Efforts include establishing a system where anyone can report an unsafe condition without fear of reprisal, making every employee a champion of safety, and establishing safety training programs for mechanics, pilots and other employees.

✓  Cutting the red tape– The FAA issued the Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment policy in 2013 after consultations with industry. The policy  allows operators and manufacturers to install safety equipment through a streamlined and less expensive approval process. The policy seeks to strike a balance between risk and safety through a “common-sense” approach.

✓  New technology– Both the FAA and industry are using technological advances to promote safer helicopter flights. For example, the FAA mandated that the Auto­matic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast system (ADS-B) be installed in U.S. helicopters by Jan. 1, 2020 if they intend to operate in busy airspace. ADS-B’s satellite-based technology can provide three-dimensional information (latitude, longitude, altitude) about a helicopter’s position, along with information about its direction and size, without the geographic drawbacks posed by radar.

✓  Collaborative rule-making– The FAA is working with industry representatives to ensure that newly-manufactured helicopters can help prevent injuries, post-crash fires and catastrophic damage from bird-strikes. Some manufacturers and operators are already voluntarily stepping up and installing the life-saving equipment. In addition, the FAA required in 2014 that certain (Part 135) commercial helicopter operators, including air ambulances and air taxis, have stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications, training, and additional on-board safety equipment.

✓  FAA International Rotorcraft Safety conference– For the past two years, with industry’s support the FAA has hosted a three-day gathering focused on a variety of safety topics. The conference includes presentations about decision-making, fatigue, safe autorotations, protective equipment, a culture of safety, and first-person experiences.

USHST is obviously pleased with this improvement, but remains committed to even greater reductions of risk:

The IHST’s worldwide regional teams have analyzed more than 1,000 helicopter accidents and have concluded that the following four areas offer the best opportunities to prevent helicopter accidents:

  • The implementation of Safety Management Systems (SMS),
  • A structured program for initial and recurrent training,
  • The implementation of Health & Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS),
  • Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) programs.
  • Structured programs to fully comply with manufacturers’ recommended Maintenance practices.

The recent IHST survey looked at where these best practices were followed within specific segments of the helicopter industry and within regions around the world. Overall, the key recommended safety practices have been implemented most comprehensively by operators in the sectors of Offshore/Oil, Helicopter Air Ambulance and Taxi/Charter services. The lowest implementation occurs in the Personal/Private segment of the industry.

From the 2016 survey, here is the complete list of segments most following to least following the best practices:

1) Offshore/Oil               7) Commercial Aviation

2) Air Ambulance           8) Agricultural Application

3) Air Taxi/Charter         9) Air Tours

4) External Load            10) Other

5) Law Enforcement      11) Personal/Private

6) Training

faa ihst helicopter safety

This news has been extensively reported by trade press, but the journalists who write for the general public. PLEASE PASS THIS GOOD NEWS ON!!!


U.S. Helicopter Accidents Decrease
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