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Sunday, May 1, 2005

Editor's Note

James T. McKenna

Promising Times

A promising year lies ahead for the helicopter training community.

In both the offshore and aeromedical services sectors in the United States, operators and customers are lining up behind efforts to redress operational problems in part with improved training. In this month's Rotor & Wing Helicopter Training Special Report, we learn that Bell Helicopter is pushing Frasca International to come up with visual databases that civil pilots can use with flight-training devices to perform practical and realistic helicopter-specific mission training.

In a couple of months, the Assn. of Air Medical Services plans to convene a one-day conference aimed at laying out how helicopter emergency medical service operators can safely and efficiently introduce night-vision goggles to their activities. The conference is recognition of the growing popularity of NVGs among operators, regulators and safety officials and the reality that any new technology can do as much harm as good if its implementation is not well planned and executed. That conference can only increase appreciation for the importance of proper training in technological advancements.

In September, the world's helicopter community will gather in Montreal for the first International Helicopter Safety Seminar. An objective of the meeting is to set international safety goals for helicopters for the next five years. It seems logical to assume that those deliberations will include lengthy, detailed discussions on the importance of training and that those talks will have practical ramifications for operators, training organizations and vendors.

Talk is nice, but cheap if it's not matched with action, and Bell is among those taking some action. By pushing for better, more helicopter-specific visual databases for flight training devices, it will improve services offered to its customers. But development of such databases will help all pilots who train in such devices. First, it obviously will raise the standard for helicopter FTDs, prodding other manufacturers and training facilities to improve their products and services. Second, by helping to develop helicopter-specific databases, Bell will make it easier for them to reach other segments of the market. It is less costly to refine and maintain a new database than to develop a new one.

Such developments, combined with strong sales of helicopters and growing retirements of older pilots, are likely to keep the training community's business, and its innovation, on a fast pace.

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