The USHST releases helicopter safety advice

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With a turbulent beginning to the year threatening the lives of those working in the helicopter industry, the US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) has urged helicopter operators, pilots, instructors and mechanics to rely on safety basics and place a stronger emphasis on identifying and managing risk

Since January of this year, there have been 15 fatal accidents with 27 fatalities in the helicopter industry. The USHST notes that this is comparable with 2013, when 30 fatal accidents occurred. And, as July notoriously records a high number of accidents, the team anticipates that the industry is at risk of matching the 35 fatal helicopter accidents that occurred in 2008.

In response, and as an extra safety precaution, the USHST has encouraged those working in the field to focus on seven key actions that will help save lives.

Firstly, it is crucial that you know how much fuel you need or may need, says USHST. Carrying enough fuel for unexpected situations is integral to flight planning, and ignoring minimum fuel reserve requirements will put flight crews at unnecessary risk. Crews are also advised to take time to inspect the condition of an aircraft both before and after a flight to identify any issues that could affect the aircraft during operation.

Many over the counter (OTC) medications can impair the abilities of pilots, leading to aircraft accidents. The USHST notes that OTC medications usage by pilots remains a factor in 10 to 13 per cent of aircraft accidents and, as such, crews should recognize the potency of OTC medications.

During flight, there are many ways that flight crews can curtail the risks of getting into an accident. The USHST says to stop the scud running; sometimes a helicopter’s altitude will be lowered to avoid clouds or bad weather, but this is dangerous, as it increases the risk of flying into terrain, wires or towers. In addition, visual flight rules in instrument conditions can lead to death, says the USHST – whether this is because the aircraft is flying too low or the pilot is not instrument qualified or is unwilling to believe what the gauges are indicating, it is dangerous and can be fatal.

As its penultimate piece of advice, the USHST advises that crews must not succumb to Get-There-Itis. This ‘disease’ can cloud judgement, causing pilots to become fixated on the destination and thus disregard any alternative courses of action. And finally, don’t be afraid to divert, turn around or land. Ensure you have an alternative course of action available should the weather conditions worsen of unexpected problems arise. “In other words, don’t be afraid to land and live,” concluded the team.