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Monday, January 7, 2008

International Team Nailing Down Safety Numbers

International efforts to dramatically improve helicopter safety face a fundamental challenge: no one can state definitively the safety level of operations today. The benchmark of aviation safety discussions is the safety rate, i.e. accidents (or incidents) per some standard measure—usually 100,000 flight hours. But no valid tally of industry flight hours exists today; without that base, it’s impossible to determine the rate. The closest is the U.S. FAA’s count, but that is based on a survey of operators that is considered unreliable. The International Helicopter Safety Team, led by the Helicopter Assn. International, American Helicopter Society International, and the FAA, aims to improve the helicopter accident rate 80 percent by 2016. That work obviously is predicated on determining the level of flight operations. So a working group of that team, led by Bell flight safety chief Roy Fox, is doing that by compiling aircraft utilization data (considered a highly reliable source) from helicopter makers. Fox expect that database to be completed this year.
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