VIDEO: How not to do risk assessment for a helicopter job

This video demonstrates why helicopters have a high accident rate relative to fixed wing.


The pilot clearly didn’t anticipate this outcome. Fortunately he survived it, and so did the people nearby, who could also have been killed by high velocity debris.

Let’s examine the decisionmaking processes that preceded this event.

Look at the space in which the helicopter was operating. Making a sound decision about whether or not to operate there entails understanding the principles of risk management, but most pilots are not trained in it.

Neither, by and large, are the decisionmakers who run small helicopter operations.

Relatively recently, some fixed wing pilots on MPL (multi-crew pilot licence) courses have begun to be taught threat-and-error-management as a part of their training, but that is not widespread.

A mission risk level can be calculated by multiplying the level of risk (on a 1 to 5 scale) by the seriousness of the potential outcome if the worst happens.

In this case the risk of hitting an obstacle was at least 4 but probably 5, and the outcome from hitting it (total loss of helicopter, high risk of death or injury to pilot and people on the scene) is definitely 5.

25 is a big number on this scale, so don’t do it. The job can be achieved by some other means.

I have just come back from the International Helicopter Safety Seminar at Fort Worth, and I reported as follows in Flight International: “The top global industry problems, according to International Helicopter Safety Team data analysis, are the lack of a risk management culture at operator level, and poor pilot judgement when an accident situation develops.”

So what we have just witnessed is not a one-off, it’s endemic.

The Flight International report continues: “Analysis reveals that the top solution to poor helicopter operator safety performance is the adoption of low-cost flight data monitoring (FDM) systems, coupled with training tailored to correct the problems revealed by the FDM.” So when pilots make bad decisions but get away with it, you know, and can do something about it.

“Having developed this analysis, the IHST’s top problem, according to FAA IHST representative Sue Gardner, is how to get these messages out to the small operators which represent more than 80% of the industry.”

3 Responses to VIDEO: How not to do risk assessment for a helicopter job

  1. George 24 November, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Some further footage has emerged of the accident from different angles which gives more context of the operation. But as an observer I am inclined to agree with your assessment. Thankfully no life was lost or seriously injured.

  2. Ross 25 November, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Footage from another angle:

  3. David 30 November, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    “This video demonstrates why helicopters have a high accident rate relative to fixed wing.”

    Not true, the helicopter accident rate worldwide is not higher than fixed wing.

    That statement could be amended to say, “This video demonstrates why helicopters are perceived to have a high accident rate relative to fixed wing.”