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New global helicopter safety body prepares for launch

The helicopter industry is to set up action groups to gather data and draft strategies aimed at improving rotary wing safety by a factor of five within 10 years.

The charter for a new organisation – the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) – has been drafted and will be approved by 1 January, says the founding committee, which comprises industry representatives and major national aviation 
regulators, including the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The draft IHST charter is the first tangible result of resolutions agreed at the groundbreaking International Helicopter Safety Symposium (IHSS) in Montreal, Canada, in September (Flight International, 4-10 October).

The committee says the IHST plan draws on programmes used to improve airline operational safety, and cites the USA’s Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) as a role model. The CAST, a task force combining manufacturers, airlines and their associations, air traffic controllers and pilots, identified the operational areas where the greatest safety benefits could be achieved, then worked out strategies to reduce accidents.

Resources will come from member organisations, says the committee, and review meetings will take place about four times a year, normally tied in with events such as the Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo.

Membership already includes the major helicopter associations and safety organisations, helicopter manufacturers, and organisations such as the FAA, European Aviation Safety Agency, Transport Canada and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Delegates at the September IHSS agreed that a system for implementing the plan to cut helicopter accidents globally by 80% by 2015 would start within six months.

Read Author's blog on this story.

The IHST says it intends to set up a Joint Helicopter Safety Analysis Team (JHSAT) and a separate policy implementation team (JHSIT), but first it has set itself a number of objectives, including:

  • agreeing top safety focus areas;
  • establishing precise accident/incident reduction targets;
  • establishing safety metrics and an annual status reporting system;
  • chartering the JHSAT and JHSIT teams, reviewing and approving their recommendations for implementation, then monitoring and, if necessary, adjusting the results of intervention strategies


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