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Just Say "No" When It's Not Safe to Go

Introducing Terry Palmer

The HSA team is expanding! We are adding Terry Palmer into our regular lineup of speakers, and she will be recruiting sponsors for our safety seminars and consulting with me, Stan Rose, on new safety and education programs and services. 

Terry brings two special qualities to HSA. First, she brings more than 30 years of experience in aviation, specializing in the helicopter sector, simulation, and training for pilots and mechanics. Second, Terry is passionate about improving safety in our industry. I am thrilled that she will be working with me and the rest of the HSA team to conduct our outreach to the unreachables.

Many of you already know Terry, who is a frequent speaker to industry groups on safety and training for both pilots and maintenance. As the previous chair for the US Helicopter Safety Team Training Work Group, Terry authored the IHST Training Toolkit. She is a board member for the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) and one of the authors featured in their book, Safety and Quality in Medical Transport.

Terry currently serves on the HAI Training and Safety Working Groups. She has received numerous awards, including the Airbus Helicopters Jim Charlson Aviation Safety Award and HAI’s AgustaWestland Safety Award.

Terry spoke about training tips for small operators at our recent show in Minneapolis. Please come out and take advantage of her many years of experience at our next show.

— Stan Rose
Terry Palmer gives tips on training in small operations to our Minneapolis attendees.

I Stands for Icing

In aviation, I is for "icing," or maybe it's for "insidious." Icing can do three things to you, and they all sneak up on unsuspecting helicopter aviators.

First, airframe ice makes your bird heavier — a lot heavier. And that weight can come on fast. It can get a lot heavier quickly (which is actually the best case, as you are more likely to notice). You will see it on your windshield wipers, pitot tubes, OAT thermometers — anything that sticks out into the airstream.

The extra weight will trigger a glance at collective position, which may be abnormally high. You will readily discern extra weight, which will start to affect available power. If it accretes slowly, you may not get early warnings. Ice may start to build up on your tail (around the 45-degree gearbox area or the front of the tail fairing). It can be subtle enough to slight affect your center of gravity, giving you a slightly nose-up attitude. Then it starts to build up on the belly, adding weight you can’t see … meanwhile, you are getting heavier.

While you are dealing with all that, what’s happening with your rotor blades? Ice builds up on your rotor system from the center out to the tips. What maneuver does this affect most? It's your ace-in-the-hole: ice-covered rotor blades critically degrade your ability to autorotate.

So now you’re very heavy and just when you might need maximum help from the rotor, it might not be available.

While you are keeping in mind all those things that could happen in cruise flight, don't forget to think about how this could affect you during takeoff. What is one critical element for dynamic rollover? A trapped wheel or skid. Could freezing one of them to the ground provide the dynamic pivot point? You can bet your paycheck on that.

How do you avoid all these climatic catastrophes? Simple: BE SMARTER THAN THE WEATHER.

Know what kind of weather produces these phenomena. Don’t wait for the Weather Channel to tell you. Jim Cantore is never going to be be your copilot.

Be the one who can see them coming. Learn to read the story that the weather data is telling — and learn to listen to what the weather data is telling YOU.

Be proactive, get weather smart, and don’t forget your lessons over the summer vacation.
— J Heffernan

Feb. 21: Fort Worth Helicopter Safety Stand-Down
Tarrant County College, Northwest Campus
Center of Excellence in Aviation, Transportation, & Logistics at Alliance Airport
2301 Horizon Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76177
Register at SPANS #EA2798771

March 25: 20th Annual Mesa Police Aviation Safety Fly-In and FAA Helicopter Safety Seminar
Mesa Public Safety Training Facility
3260 N 40th Street, Mesa, AZ 85215
Register at SPANS #WP0798993

Maintenance Safety Update

In the last decade, the focus of aviation safety has expanded beyond cockpit errors to include the big picture. How did engineering and maintenance affect the chain of events that led to the accident?

Maintenance as a contributing factor has revealed the need to provide more effective training, not just in aircraft-specific requirements, but also in soft skills. Soft skills include areas such as troubleshooting, resource management, decision-making, and discipline.  

A rapid advance in technology is playing a big factor in the ability of the technician to troubleshoot aircraft with complex electronic systems and avionics. Much of the technology requires hands-on training. In the past, resources had been restricted to limited OEM training; however, safety and training organizations are now adding technology, electronic paperwork, and other vital areas to their curriculum and online resources.

This month’s maintenance safety tip:  Recognize that fatigue can adversely affect decision making.  If you are tired, postpone the work if you can. Always take another look or get another set of eyes to check.  This is not a weakness; double-checking work shows strength in safety.
— Terry Palmer
Plan for Bad Weather

At HAI HELI-EXPO this year, the conversation was dominated by the news coverage of the S-76 accident that caused the death of nine people, including basketball legend Kobe Bryant. This tragic accident happened a short distance from the convention center where the helicopter industry was gathering for its annual convention. As the details unfolded, we all were shocked that this could happen.

This accident follows another high-profile accident in Hawaii, and it looks like both of them were due to an encounter with IMC conditions. The question is not whether this could happen to you, but rather, what are you doing to make sure that it does not happen to you and your passengers.

I've seen several accidents recently where the Monday-morning quarterbacks confidently assert that no one should have taken off in that weather. But what is it going to take for the average helicopter pilot to be comfortable saying that before the flight? Remember, we already know that IIMC is one of the top three causes of fatal helicopter accidents. Let's stop pretending that poor decision-making isn't a problem in our industry.

So what do you need to do to stay out of marginal weather?

The first thing you should do is to set personal minimums that will prevent you from taking off in marginal weather. A flight risk assessment tool (FRAT) or a posted set of criteria can be used to have that difficult discussion with a customer who wants you to “try it” because they are going to be inconvenienced if you cancel the flight. As a professional pilot, your obligation to that customer is to say “No” at the appropriate time.

If you encounter changes in the weather along your route of flight, you should have a plan for that. Yes, the weather is good now, but we all know it can change en route. We need to practice good decision-making along the way and avoid our tendency to push through. Sometimes that means that we will make a precautionary landing and wait it out, so we can fly another day.

— Stan Rose

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