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Thursday, August 18, 2011

IHST Gets Social in Accident Reduction Goal

By Chris Sheppard, Associate Editor

The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) has partnered with American Eurocopter to harness the power of social media in its efforts to reduce the commercial rotorcraft accident rate 80 percent by 2016. Together with American Eurocopter the group has sought to create a forward-thinking social media strategy to help increase operator awareness of safety issues.

IHST has launched profiles on Facebook and Twitter to provide a full set of virtual resources for operators, such as videos, safety reports and recommendations, news and tool kits for safety management systems (SMS), training, flight data monitoring, risk assessment and maintenance. The interactive natures of Facebook and Twitter make it easy for pilots and operators to ask safety questions to a global audience and receive feedback. IHST also encourages operators to relate their own safety experiences and tips learned through experience.

American Eurocopter spearheaded the effort to create the IHST profiles and assisted in developing the overall social media strategy. “We have worked with IHST for many years. During one of our recent conversations social media came up and we offered our services to help them develop their social media strategy and their various profiles,” said Brenda Reuland, American Eurocopter vice president of communications and public relations. The manufacturer already had a foothold with social media, launching its own Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles during Heli-Expo 2011.

According to Kim Smith, manager of the FAA Rotorcraft Directorate and government co-chair of the IHST, one of the main goals of the strategy is to increase awareness about the safety information available on the IHST website and make it more accessible. IHST is a joint government/industry initiative co-chaired by FAA. Smith feels that the group has made “good progress” toward reducing the accident rate over the last five years, but adds this new approach will be another boost to their goals.

“A social media strategy will aid us in broadening our reach to every corner of the global helicopter community," Smith said. "There is a wide array of information on the IHST website focused on enhancing helicopter operations and creating safer skies. We want to make sure that every operator, pilot, instructor and mechanic has an opportunity to see it and use it."

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