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Start the New Year Safe

Helicopter Pilots Save the Whales

Our most recent show was in San Jose, California. In addition to our regular agenda, we had an excellent presentation by Dr. Wendy Kordesch of NOAA ( on the hazards associated with flying in coastal areas.

She provided attendees with useful information about both nesting and migratory birds and how to avoid them. Did you know that it is easy to spot from the air the nesting places of birds? Hint: look for the areas that are very white ...
Shortly after the show, Wendy sent us the story and photo below. The story tells of how the Half Moon Bay Pilots Association, a group of pilots operating out of Half Moon Bay Airport (KHAF), south of San Francisco, helped a struggling whale.

This is a welcome reminder of how we can all support each other out there. It's always nice to hear another great story about the many ways that GA contributes to our world.

Whale of Fortune

A sky-high thank-you to pilots from the Half Moon Bay Pilots Association, who quickly jumped into action when they spotted a humpback whale entangled in crab fishing gear (pictured below) near Pigeon Point, wrapped in lines deeply embedded.

Their detailed report allowed the US Coast Guard and NOAA’s Large Whale Entanglement Response Program to assemble a team on the water who made several strategic cuts, so the whale could set itself free.

Entangled whales can drag gear for months on end. Thanks to the pilots' efforts a much happier whale is now swimming in the waters off the Central Coast.

Monthly Safety Briefing: Winter Operations

Winter flying offers some unique challenges for the helicopter pilot. At this time of year, let's reacquaint ourselves with the basics of winter flying.

In your safety briefing this month, start a discussion of the hazards associated with cold weather operations. First, make certain that you wear or carry winter clothing and gear. A precautionary landing may be necessary because of changing weather or an encounter with icing conditions. Make sure you and your crew have what you need to be effective on the ground.

Review the cold weather procedures for your aircraft. Get out the manual and look at the cold weather operating limits in the normal and emergency sections. Discuss the preflight actions that are necessary for safe operations, including de-icing procedures and winter weather forecasts.

Below are some other resources to help you and your colleagues stay safe during flight operations in the winter months:

READ this excellent article by Transport Canada on winter operations, "Snow Landing and Take-off Techniques for Helicopters" (Aviation Safety Letter TP 185). In it, the author points out that helicopter rotor wash can produce a flurry of recirculating snow, reducing visibility or creating a whiteout condition that is hazardous for take-offs and landings. The article suggests several landing and take-off techniques for these conditions and discusses their advantages and disadvantages.

READ an article by the Aviation Department of the State of Oregon on Tips on Winter Flying. This thorough article covers a wide variety of topics, from preflight through landing, including what to carry in your cold-weather survival kit.
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2019 Membership Drive
As we start 2019, I would like to thank you for being a member of the Helicopter Safety Alliance.

At seminars across the country, we have reached out to hundreds of pilots, managers, and maintainers in small helicopter operations. This has allowed us to introduce the current thinking in helicopter safety, SMS, to those who -- statistically speaking -- need it the most.

If that last sentence bothers you, then it should. We in the helicopter industry need to adopt modern methods of managing the risks that go along with being in aviation. It's safer, and good safety is good stewardship for both lives and businesses. Spreading that gospel is why HSA is here. 
This year, we want to expand the Helicopter Safety Alliance membership program and newsletter to more of our peers, and we need your help.

If you appreciate what HSA is doing, then tell a colleague or buddy and suggest that they sign up for their free membership in the Alliance. If you like these newsletters or use the safety meeting outlines each month, then pass along a copy to a friend. Sharing is caring! (Just kidding, but only sorta.) 

If you believe in the value of spending a day talking about operational issues with folks like Bill Hopper, Bruce Webb, Walter Chartrand, Bryan Smith, or some of the other great speakers we host at our Helicopter Safety Stand-Downs, then spread the word. Our schedule is posted at, and you can sign up for newsletters there too.

We appreciate your help! As always, we are interested in your feedback and welcome your ideas on how we can improve this newsletter or our seminars. Drop me a line at
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you soon at a Helicopter Safety Stand-Down near you.
-- Stan Rose

GA Insurance Rates on the Rise, Says Broker

Helicopter operators have enjoyed several years of a buyer's market in aviation insurance. But could this be coming to an end?

We recently came across an article in AIN that claims that general aviation insurance premiums are ticking up once again. According to the article, the increased costs go hand in hand with an increase in GA insurance claims.

The article quotes Aviation Specialty Insurance president Matt Drummelsmith as saying that rates are trending up and "pilot approval is getting stricter. In other cases, considerations received in the past might no longer be available."

What have you heard about this? In your opinion, is this article on point? Please let me know so we can track this new trend among small operators. Drop me a line at

A New Year, a New Agenda

The Helicopter Safety Alliance is dedicated to bringing the latest innovations in safety to small helicopter operators in the USA. As we move into 2019, we are making a few changes to the agenda for our regional safety seminars that are designed to give you current, usable information to make your operations safer.
Our morning session, which includes pilots, maintainers, and managers, will present the work of the US Helicopter Safety Team and its initiatives to improve safety. From the FAA, we will hear about the benefits of the WINGS and AMT programs, as well as a briefing on the new Compliance Philosophy that marks a major change in the relationship between general aviation and our regulators. A keynote speaker will round out the morning agenda.
In the afternoon, we will have a practical demonstration of risk analysis and safety management. This demonstration will take the mystery out of safety management and show how you can incorporate SMS best practices in your operations.

During this session, a panel of industry experts and regulators will guide the audience of managers, pilots, and maintainers through three cornerstones of good safety management:

  • Recognizing hazards and managing their risks (if you keep logbooks for your aircraft, you are halfway there)
  • Using data to promote safety and reduce costs (you can't manage what you don't count)
  • Providing proper training to your workforce (because most accidents stem from mistakes and not malicious behavior, you will improve safety through training, not discipline).

I hope you will make the time to attend one of our Helicopter Safety Stand-Downs. We know that you have to take time out of your busy day to attend, and we are working hard to make the safety education and networking at these events worth your while.

-- Stan Rose

Join the Helicopter Safety Alliance
At the Bay Area Regional Helicopter Safety Stand-Down, Marc Aparicio of HeliTrak (top left) demonstrates a device that helps pilots quickly enter autorotations by automatically pulling down the collective when a low engine RPM is detected. Top right, some of the 75 attendees relax during a break.

Jan. 25: Midwest Regional Helicopter Safety Stand-Down
This Event Will Go On, Even if the Govt. Remains Shut Down

Register Online or Tell a Friend!

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