New data released by the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) shows that the total number of civil helicopter accidents in the U.S. has declined since 2009. During the three-year period from 2007 to 2009, there were 466 helicopter accidents in the country. For the past three years, from 2010 through 2012, there were 411 U.S. accidents. However, the data also shows that the number of helicopter accidents involving personal/private flying increased during the same time period. Within the 2007-09 span, 21 percent of total U.S.
One of the biggest dangers facing helicopter crews around the world, and in current operational theaters in particular, is “brownout.” Rotor downwash can create clouds of sand and dust that obscure the pilot’s view at critical times, especially when landing. Snow and fog also bring their own low-visibility dangers.
BAE Systems is preparing for the start of flight trials of a landing-vision aid for helicopter pilots that uses millimeter-wave radar to see through brownout conditions created by blowing dust or sand.
Eurocopter AS 350B2, Cave Creek, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2009–The probable cause of the damaging landing of the AS 350, registered to and operated by PHI, was the pilot’s misjudged landing flare, according to the NTSB.
Bell 407, Huntsville, Texas, June 8, 2008–The Board determined the probable cause of the EMS 407 accident was the pilot’s failure to identify and arrest the helicopter’s descent. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadvertent flight into IMC and the limited outside visual reference due to the dark night conditions, low clouds and fog.
Choices that air medical operators will make about investing limited resources in safety equipment are price-sensitive. For this reason, enhanced-vision systems without night-vision goggles’ expensive recurrent training requirements may be seen as a more viable alternative by many EMS operators. However, in addition to choosing NVG or EVS, some HEMS operators are flying with both.
The European helicopter safety team (Ehest) released the preliminary results of the first European-wide helicopter accident study on October 13, during a conference in Cascais, Portugal. The Ehest is now transitioning from analysis to the development of an action plan. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the helicopter accident rate by 80 percent by 2016, consistent with the goals of the international helicopter safety team (IHST).
Rotorcraft design has reached a plateau and advancements are taking place in incremental steps rather than as major breakthroughs. That was the prevailing message of a day-long workshop about the past, present and future of rotorcraft held at the University of Maryland’s Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center.
Bell 407, Newberry, S.C., July 13, 2004–The NTSB blamed the EMS helicopter accident on the pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance as a result of fog conditions. A contributing factor was inadequate weather and dispatch information relayed to him.
With the goal of flight testing the system next year, BAE Systems recently signed a second contract with Mercury Computer Systems of Chelmsford, Mass., to provide its VistaNav synthetic-vision technology to create a rotorcraft brownout landing system. Award of the first contract was announced in March.