US Helicopter Safety Team
The United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) recently announced its “20 by 2020” campaign, a new goal of reducing the civil U.S. fatal helicopter accident rate by 20 percent by the end of 2019. That’s an estimable goal and its attainment will be a test of this team. Success will herald a new level of safety within this most challenging segment of aviation.
USHST traces its roots, according to its Charter, to the 1997 White House Commission on Safety and Security. A number of recommendations resulted including the need for strong government/ industry partnerships to promote safety in the industry. Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) for Part 121 Commercial Air Carriers was the first visible product of this White House initiative.
The International Helicopter Safety Symposium (IHSS) in 2005 decided to bring the public/private process to rotorcraft operations. Eventually, the US participants decided to form a group focusing on the safety promotion here. Thus, the USHST team was established in 2013 and its most recent charter was executed during the summer of 2015. It‘s structure was a balance between the FAA and the helicopter sector:
Since 2013, the USHST focused on the U.S. civil helicopter community and fatal accidents. The team issued reports, safety tools, Reel Safety audio-visual presentations, informative press releases, charts, a code of contact and bulletins. As with CAST, their activity had impact.
They saw results; total accidents decreased for the second year in a row and the helicopter accident rate has been cut by 52 percent compared to 10 years ago. In addition, fatal accidents are down 41 percent and the fatal accident rate is down 60 percent compared to a decade ago.
For the 2016 through 2019 period, the USHST targeted fatal accident rate progress and focus on actions that will help keep the rate in a consistent downward trend. The team established fatal accident maximum rates per 100,000 hour “mile markers” as guides to measure progress: 0.73 in 2016, 0.69 in 2017, 0.65 in 2018 and 0.61 in 2019. During the past 15 years, the helicopter fatal accident rate has trended downward, but it has been below 0.61 only twice and spiked in 2008 and 2013.
As part of its continuing effort to support a reduction in fatal accidents, the USHST will focus on the following:
- Complete a thorough analysis of fatal accidents from 2009 to 2013 for the development of specific intervention
- Enhance its outreach to all helicopter industry areas, with special emphasis on personal/private flying, aerial agricultural application and emergency medical services.
- Concentrate its efforts in the safety areas of personal protection, aircraft equipage, pilot judgment, pilot decision making and fostering a just culture.
CAST has shown remarkable improvement in the Part 121 segment; USHST has great promise to do the same.