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Thursday, April 1, 2004

Rotorcraft's Lifeblood

James T. McKenna

 

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of training to the rotorcraft industry.

Aviation in general began to learn the critical value of training way back in the 1920s. Back then, poor judgment, inadequate skills and equipment failures were killing pilots so frequently that the fledgling industry's very survival was at stake. Simply put, there would be no aviation industry until people were confident that they wouldn't be killed or that their shipped goods wouldn't be destroyed during a flight.

Analysts dissected the fatal problems of that day, such as engine failures and flight into foul weather. That resulted in improved designs and enhanced flying techniques-the specifics of which were passed on through training. Over the years, it has grown more formal, organized and effective.

Aviators learned early on that safety was good business-and that good business was best achieved through good training. That painful process of learning to avert death and destruction made aviation the world leader in safety advancement through training. Save perhaps nuclear power, there is no other industry that accepts training, and the self-critiquing that underpins it, as its lifeblood. Major industries on which our lives and livelihoods depend-such as distributors of electricity-are only now beginning to learn the vital nature of training and the safe practices it supports. That has been the essence of aviation for decades.

Proper training drives the rotorcraft industry. It is the foundation of the skills, judgment and daring that has allowed entrepreneurs to find new applications for rotorcraft and to succeed in those efforts. It has allowed manufacturers to develop new designs to meet the demands of those pioneers and-over time-to make those designs more reliable and economical.

Training has allowed operators and individual crews to push the limits of possibilities with rotorcraft. In doing so, it helped draw new people and new blood into the industry.

Training whets the appetite of aspiring pilots for new aircraft and of current ones for upgrades. It fuels the markets for all the products and services those aircraft require.

Most importantly, effective training of helicopter crews is the only means by which members of the general public will accept rotorcraft in their communities and their lives. That was true for aviation in general in the 1920s. It remains true for our industry today.

For all these reasons, Rotor & Wing is inaugurating a bimonthly supplemental section, Helicopter Training, focused on all aspects of training related to the ownership and operation of helicopters.

This month, we look at the state of the civilian training sector and what the future may hold. In coming issues of Helicopter Training, we will examine news of interest to the training market, such as insurance, safety and regulatory issues as well as market opportunities. We will focus on particular topics of interest, including instrument training, developments in simulators, hoist operations, external load training, turbine transition and night operations.

We look forward to your contributions for news, ideas, new developments and suggestions for stories. We hope and expect that you will find this and future issues of Helicopter Training a valuable resource for your training needs.

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