The last year has seen a significant reduction in helicopter accidents, according to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST). One year ago, the USHST, a division of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST), announced that 2014 would be a pivotal year for reversing an increase in rotor accidents.
At this year’s Heli-Expo, the organization reports total accidents last year declined to 130, including 21 fatal accidents, the lowest total since the early 1980s, representing an 11- and 30-percent decrease, respectively.
The safety improvement looks even better when viewed against operational volumes. In 2014, the U.S. civil helicopter industry experienced 3.64 accidents per 100,000 hours, a 26-percent reduction over 2013, and a 54-percent reduction over the 2001 to 2005 baseline accident rate. The fatal accident rate of 0.59 per 100,000 flight hours is 42 percent below the 2013’s rate of 1.02 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours, and a 55-percent improvement over the 2001 to 2005 baseline fatal accident rate of 1.31.
USHST government co-chair Jim Viola points to improved risk management among operators, pilots, instructors and mechanics and the infusion of safety habits in their corporate cultures for the decline. Nonetheless, “One hundred and thirty accidents during the year is still one hundred and thirty too many,” Viola said, and the USHSTis continuing its efforts to lower the count.
The organization recently introduced its “Reel Safety” program, a series of multimedia presentations aimed at enhancing helicopter safety. Available on the USHST and IHST websites, the 15 topics include emergency decision-making, controlled flight into terrain and how to train to survive a real autorotation.
Here at Heli-Expo 2015, the organization is also promoting seven initiatives it believes every helicopter operator and pilot needs to take, developed from an analysis of more than 500 accidents. The initiatives include using cockpit recording devices, adding advanced maneuvers to simulator training, implementing a personal risk-management program and establishing a safety management system.