Despite small safety performance improvements, global helicopter operators are nowhere near on-track to meet an accident-rate reduction target set six years ago.
This was the damning verdict delivered at the latest International Helicopter Safety Seminar (IHSS) in Fort Worth, Texas this week. The target was laid down at the first IHSS in 2005.
However, the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) remains hopeful that the objective of an 80% reduction in the global helicopter accident rate by 2016 can still be achieved.
This particular conference, the IHST argued, marks the transition of the campaign from the data gathering and policy development phase to the policy implementation stage. Beyond this point, safety deliverables could reasonably be expected to show results, it said.
Detailed regional analysis of helicopter accidents across the world has proved rotary wing crashes happen for much the same reasons in Mongolia as they do in the USA, the conference was told.
Sikorsky safety specialist Steve Gleason summed up the data-driven conclusions: "We're not finding new ways to crash helicopters. We're just doing the same thing over and over."
The IHST was originally set up because the industry was concerned this situation may exist. Now it has gathered the data to prove it conclusively.
Former US Federal Aviation Administration helicopter specialist Hooper Harris - now working for petrochemical company BP - said that now the problem has been defined, the solution can start to be delivered.
The top global industry problems, according to IHST data analysis, are lack of a risk management culture at operator level, and poor pilot judgement when an accident situation develops.
Analysis reveals 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 correcting the problems revealed by the FDM.
Having developed this analysis, the IHST's top problem, according to the FAA's IHST representative Sue Gardner, is how to get these messages out to the small operators which represent more than 80% of the industry.