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Saturday, April 1, 2006

Editor's Note: Avoiding the Pitfalls

In their new seminar for helicopter pilots, "Back to Basics, the Human Factors," Roger Sharkey and Bayard duPont start off recounting the old saw of safety: Nobody wakes up in the morning saying, "I think I'll have an accident today."

And, yet, that is just what the unfortunate, the undisciplined and the careless among us do consistently. So consistently, in fact, that the helicopter industry has come to the realization that the situation can't continue, that we have to find better ways to head off accidents (as well as incidents just like them that don't harm people and break aircraft only because of some lucky break).

The International Helicopter Safety Team (about which you hopefully will read a lot over the next several years) is one such attempt to do that. The 7/7=1 initiative by top oil and gas companies is another ("7/7=1," February 2006, page 28). The "Back to Basics" seminar is yet another. Organized by duPont's employer, Enstrom Helicopter, and Sharkey's Helicopters and presented at Heli-Expo 2006 with the backing of the insurers AirSure and AIG, it aims provoke pilots into thinking a little bit more about how they fly in the air and prepare to do so on the ground. A lot of the stuff we know, or should. We just forget it, or get lazy over time, or let the luck that has kept us out of the crosshairs of the NTSB, the FAA and our insurance company delude us into thinking we're better pilots than we should ever believe. And we could all use a wake-up call like that on a basis frequent but unpredictable enough to keep us alert and wary in and around the aircraft.

Toward that end, this month we feature a review of some the more common mistakes that pilots make, as recounted by those who see hundreds (if not thousands of them) from the flight instructor's point of view. This is not an accident-prevention article; put it, instead, in the category, "Tips for Being a Better Pilot." Still, we should all keep in mind that anything that gets us thinking about being a better is an accident-prevention tool, since it might help break some of the early links in the chain of events that leads to an accident. As you'll see in the feature on page T6, many of the common problems are ones of basic airmanship.

This article is the first in a series. Having rounded up the common mistakes, in future issues of Rotor & Wing's Helicopter Training we'll ask a top flight instructor to explore one problem area in detail and offer tips for how to overcome it. As always, we welcome your thoughts on the mistakes reviewed here and ones to cover in the future.

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