USHST Releases Six Ways That Helicopter Instructors Can Save Lives

November 7, 2017 – The United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) researched dozens of helicopter accidents that resulted in fatalities for pilots and passengers and from this research released six focus areas that the team believes can improve safety in the Helicopter Industry. In their research, they have discovered that case studies reveal that failures in these key areas have resulted in lives being lost. By focusing on these important points, the USHST hopes to raise awareness within the industry to reduce the number of fatalities among the Civil Helicopter Community.


Teaching the importance of the pre-flight risk assessment.

With this point, the USHST believes that both flight instructors and new pilots alike would benefit from guidance on the accepted best practices for conducting a full and comprehensive risk assessment prior to a training flight. With a pre flight risk assessment, inherent risks would be identified and this assessment would allow these risks to be mitigated and subsequently greatly reduced. The USHST believes that there should be a standard series of guidelines for pre-flight risk assessments on training flights and these standards should be readily available for flight instructors and students.

Provide competency-based training and assessments.

The USHST determined in their research that as many as 17% of all fatal accidents involved pilot decision errors that stemmed from a basic lack of competency to operate the aircraft safely, effectively, and efficiently. Some of the factors that were brought up in the study included poor knowledge of aircraft performance and limitations, inflight power and energy management, basic maneuvers essential to aircraft control, aircraft systems, and familiarity with the Pilot Operating Handbook.

Teaching Threat and Error Management.

Currently, many instructors are using a traditional decision-making form of risk assessment which places the focus largely on reactive and proactive means of flight crew situational management. The USHST is recommending the introduction of a Threat and Error Management practice that will utilize a predictive process to eliminate threats and errors before, during, and after each flight. The team believes this should be incorporated into initial and recurrent helicopter training courses.

Train Pilots to Recognize Spatial Disorientation.

Don’t let this suggestion’s place on the list fool you, this is a serious topic. In the USHST’s analysis, one out of ten fatal accidents were linked to spatial disorientation being a cause or contributing factor to a pilot’s incapacitation. The USHST’s recommendation to reduce this problem would come from the use of available simulator technology and training scenarios on recognition and recovery from spatial disorientation to be used more widely.

Incorporate Progressive Approaches to Training Autorotations.

The USHST believes that with experience with progressive approaches in the training of autorotation maneuvers will help pilots avoid fatal consequences when mitigating an unexpected inflight problem. With future flight instruction placing more emphasis on the recommendations outlined in FAS Advisory Circular 61-140A, which contains topics including higher entry point and lower entry point autorotations, 300ft AGL decision checks, and turning autorotation techniques, lives could be saved.

Improve Simulator Training for Outside-the-Envelope Conditions.

Currently, the models for simulator training lack accuracy at edge-of-the-envelope and outside-the-envelope flight scenarios and this ma, in fact, lead to unrealistic training for maneuvers such as loss of tail rotor effectiveness, vortex ring state/settling with power, and autorotation procedures. This will subsequently render this training ineffective when these situations are encountered during an actual flight. It is the USHST’s belief that there should be improvements made to simulator models that will help address these limitations in current simulator training.


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