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NTSB Issues Two Safety Alerts Focusing On Improving Helicopter Safety

February 25, 2014 - The National Transportation Safety Board today issued two Safety Alerts highlighting the importance of proper maintenance and simulator training as critical ways to improve helicopter safety. 

This year, helicopter safety was added to the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements. In the past decade, over 1,500 accidents have occurred involving helicopters used as air ambulances, for search and rescue missions, commercial helicopter operations such as tour flights, and instructional operations. During that same time, the NTSB issued over 200 safety recommendations on issues related to helicopter investigations. 

"Implementing recommended safety improvements that address helicopter operations can mitigate risk for thousands of pilots and passengers each year," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "At this week's Heli-Expo, we are working with HAI to increase awareness and identify voluntary action taken by key stakeholders to improve the safety of helicopter operations."


The two Safety Alerts issued today are: 

1) Safety Through Helicopter Simulators (SA-031) 

Through simulator training operators can provide pilots a valuable tool to ensure proficiency in emergency procedures, including autorotations, use of NVGs, recognition of degraded visual conditions, and recovery from unusual attitudes. 

Consistent, standardized simulator training will help prepare pilots for the unexpected and will decrease the risk of an accident. Simulators can be a helpful tool for operators to provide pilot training on the following: 

Autorotations - during any phase of flight, which reinforces the immediate responses required during actual emergencies. 

Scenario - based training tailored to the mission, including NVG missions in low-light situations and site-specific training that considers obstacles and terrain. 

Degraded - visual conditions, safe decision-making skills, and inadvertent IMC encounters. By practicing potential emergencies, pilots will be better equipped to handle emergency situations.



2) Helicopter Safety Starts in the Hangar (SA-032) 

What can mechanics do? 

- Ensure that you receive adequate training so that you have the skills necessary to complete specific maintenance tasks. 

- Use work cards, if available, to document completed maintenance steps. Doing so will help ensure the safety and security of items that have undergone maintenance and of any surrounding components that may have been disconnected. If work cards are not available, consider developing them from available maintenance manuals. 

- Obtain independent inspections of critical items that have undergone maintenance.  

- Verify that all work was performed in accordance with manufacturers’ procedures and work with flight check pilots to ensure that all appropriate checks are completed. 

- Review available guidance and training materials regarding human performance errors associated with aviation maintenance. These can include pressures to complete the work, missed steps due to fatigue, and company procedures that are contrary to the manufacturer’s guidance. Even experienced aviation maintenance technicians can make mistakes.
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