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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Zealand Focuses on Helicopter Safety

By Emma Kelly, Australia and Pacific Correspondent

The New Zealand Helicopter Association (NZHA) has launched a new initiative designed to further improve flight safety after the country’s helicopter accident rate has plateaued.

NZHA chief executive officer John Sinclair notes that the country’s helicopter accident is very good – at around 20 accidents each year – but that figure has plateaued over the last 14 years. The latest helicopter accident occurred on August 16 when a helicopter operated by Harris Mountains Heliski crashed at Mount Alta, in the southern ski fields, killing one person and injuring six.

Under NZ law, operators are required to notify the Civil Aviation Authority of NZ of any accidents and safety incidents. Until now, this information has been kept in databases by the CAA and analyzed only by the authority. Under the new initiative, operator information will be removed from the reports and the information will be collated in a spreadsheet and sent to the NZHA committee. NZHA will look for trends in the reports and develop resilience strategies to be published in regular bulletins.

In order to improve the safety rate, the industry needs a new approach – “and this is it,” says Sinclair. Industry needs to see itself as a system rather than individuals and develop links between operators. “Nearly half of the helicopter industry comprises companies that have two or less helicopters and whilst the larger companies are often better ‘plugged in’ to information about safety risks, that is not necessarily true for the rest of the industry. We want this new initiative to help close the ‘information gaps,'” says Sinclair. 

Related: Safety News

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