Long-term accident rates have caused the entire commercial helicopter industry to lead a “most wanted” list for urgent safety improvements this year, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on 16 January.
Justifying the sweeping designation over an entire segment of the aviation industry, the NTSB cited a record of 477 deaths from 1,470 helicopter accidents between January 2003 and May 2013.
The NTSB had previously singled out emergency medical systems (EMS) operators to address safety concerns, but the industry’s new perch on top of the list broadens the agency’s focus.
The NTSB will now seek through the course of the year to highlight 100 previously issued safety recommendations and perhaps propose new changes to reduce helicopter accidents.
So far, the NTSB has focused less on recommending changes to airworthiness standards for helicopters. Instead, the agency has urged the industry’s helicopter operators to adopt a variety of safety practices, such as developing risk management strategies that emphasize inspection and maintenance, the NTSB says.
As a whole, the NTSB recommendations seek to establish an improved safety culture within the helicopter industry. Operators need to consider factors as fatigue on duty-time.
Meanwhile, the NTSB also added weather hazards for general aviation on the most wanted list. Failing to recognise or avoid hazardous weather is a “frequent cause or contributing factor” to general aviation incidents.
In calling for better training, the NTSB says the “first line of defence” on weather safety are the decisions made by the pilot and when and where to fly.
Controllers must be equipped to broadcast weather changes to pilots as quickly as possible, the NTSB says. Finally, the FAA needs resources to make sure weather updates are disseminated across the national airspace system.