IHST: Helicopter Safety Sees Global Improvement

Accident rates for the U.S. helicopter industry remained stable in 2017, but well below the accident totals it experienced several years ago, according to preliminary data released by the United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) this week at Heli-Expo 2018. Comparing 2017 with 2013, the year the USHST was founded, civil accident rates have declined by 17 percent, while fatal accidents are down 33 percent.

In 2013, the fatal helicopter accident rate in the U.S. was approximately one per 100,000 flight hours, and over the past several years has leveled off at approximately 0.55 fatal crashes per 100,000 flight hours. This is still below the organization’s goal of 0.69 for the year.

Indeed, Tony Molinaro, a public affairs officer with the FAA, presented statistics in a presentation on Wednesday, demonstrating that the most recent three-year period shows an average of 18 fatal helicopter accidents a year in the U.S., following a somewhat steady decrease from the average of 40 seen between 1985 and 1987. Those same statistics also had the average of total accidents over the three year period ending in 2017 as 118, down from the average of 211 recorded between 1985 and 1987, the earliest data presented.

The International Helicopter Safety Team—which will soon be restructuring as the International Helicopter Safety Foundation, incorporating legal and financial status— presented preliminary 2017 data from 49 countries that showed in most cases decreasing totals in both fatal and non-fatal helicopter accidents. Overall, the incidence of rotorcraft accidents among those countries decreased by 6 percent year-over-year, and by 32 percent since 2013.

Europe, which had 103 helicopter accidents (25 fatal) in 2013, has seen continual improvement, resulting in 43 accidents, 11 of which resulted in fatalities, last year. During that same span, Brazil went from 25 accidents (four fatal) to less than half that amount in 2017.

The organization conducts an annual survey of operators to learn the rate of implementation of IHST’s key recommended safety practices by operators around the world.

“Of all the folks in the survey, more of them are using the recommended practices by the IHST,” said Molinaro. “We’re seeing more and more that they’re using HUMS, that they’re using SMS, they’re using flight data monitoring, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

While he is heartened by the steadily improving results, Molinaro is not yet ready to credit them entirely to the education efforts of IHST and others.

“We still have not gotten the link yet to work being done on safety enhancements being connected to some kind of progress in lowering the accident rate,” he told Heli-Expo attendees. “As soon as we find some tool that comes out of the teams and we can absolutely link what they are doing or what’s being changed that then causes a lowering of accidents—that’s the goal for us.”

SOURCE Aviation International News