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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Int’l Safety Team Confronts How to Reach Small Operators

Leaders of the International Helicopter Safety Team are wrestling with how the group, which apparently has had some success toward its goal, can reach its critical target audience: smaller helicopter operators.

About 300 industry and government representatives met mid-September in Montreal to review the team’s progress since its 2005 inception, renew their commitment to its goal, and discuss the next steps to be taken toward it. The goal is to cut accidents 80 percent by 2016.

The 2nd International Helicopter Safety Symposium heard evidence of a 14-percent drop in accidents from 2005 to 2006 and a sustainment of that reduction through this year. While the team has yet to field tangible products based on its analysis of accident root causes, its leader believe its work has raised awareness of the need to improve rotorcraft safety, which may well have contributed to the drop in accidents.

"We can’t put our finger on the cause, but believe that has helped," said Somen Chowdhury, manager of international research for Bell Helicopter Textron Canada and a director of the team.

The team has gotten remarkable support in manpower and time from manufacturers and major operators, which has enabled swift work on accident analyses and recommendations on mitigation measures. But Chowdhury and others said it faces a key challenge: reaching smaller operators, with five or fewer aircraft, that make up 85 percent of the industry. For more on the challenges ahead, visit www.rotorandwing.com.

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