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By Ed MacDonald - It was a morning like no other.  Key members of the management team sat around the conference table with bleary red eyes and a demeanor which reflected their shared loss and pain from the night before.  Self-doubt and a sense of their own human frailty permeated each team member down to the core.  What could have prevented this tragic event?  Why didn’t they see it coming?

By Barry Pomeroy - The answer to the shortage of qualified helicopter pilots and the ‘gray area’ for certified low time commercial helicopter pilots are; Interns - voluntary second pilots in VFR/SPIFR commercial and HEMS operations. I am Barry Pomeroy, I am a low time Commercial pilot with an existing career, and I am writing this as the result of a failure matrix analysis after observing and participating in the industry for approximately six years. I attend, listen, and read everything I can get my hands on from the helicopter world.

By Bill Winn - The sound of thunder on the near horizon can herald hope or fear, depending on whether you are a drought-stricken farmer or a Golden Retriever with a serious phobia of both the boom and flash of lightening. My dog Max literally climbs into bed between me and Joyce during every thunderstorm, and lies there shivering uncontrollably until the storm has passed. It's like having one of those vibrating beds you find in cheap motels.

By Ron Whitney - Madison County Executive (MDQ) airport is not an unfamiliar destination for me.  Located a little over 17 nm to the northeast of Huntsville International (HSV) Airport, this uncontrolled general aviation airport was a frequent refueling stop while I was in the EMS business.  The one thing I always loved about MDQ was that the line guys were always waiting on me, regardless of the time, or the weather. Even if I was only buying thirty gallons of Jet A, they treated us as if it were five thousand.  The service here is simply the best I’ve seen in thirty years of flying.

After analyzing data on accidents within commercial aviation over a 10-year period, the Federal Aviation Administration published a new rule in January of this year that requires all Part 135 operators employing more than one pilot to install Crew Resource Management training.  The final rule gives commercial operators until March 22, 2013 to establish CRM programs for both initial and recurrent training, and to have those programs approved.  After that period, certificate holders conducting Part 135 operations will be prohibited from using a crewmember unless that person has completed the certificate holder’s initial CRM training.

Night flight usage and technology have grown exponentially in the past few years and the dilemma from FAA mandate to have a minimum of 2 crewmembers for NVG flight operations below 300’ AGL has evolved as well. There are two general sides taken in this discussion. The first is the belief that NVG operations can be conducted safely with only the pilot using NVGs, while others believe that NVG flight operations below 300’ AGL is a multi-crew task. Each side of the discussion believes the alternative to be undesirable. In this article, we will take an objective look at this issue.

The sound of metal skid shoes scraping against runway asphalt is never pleasant. But today, there is nothing more fun than doing full down autos in Robinsons new R66.

Having been invited in to conduct a week’s worth of program evaluation and EVS training by Wojciech Wozniczka, the LPR Deputy Technical Director.  I had the sincere pleasure to work with this tremendously professional EMS group based out of Warsaw, Poland which had been founded in 2000.  The LPR was a result of the consolidation of several independent EMS units to form a single state (country) medical service with the ability to coordinate all care from one single location.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Oct 7, 2010, via a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), sweeping new equipment and regulation changes in an effort to enhance the safety of all helicopter operations.  While this action has been expected for many months, there will no doubt be a great deal of debate and political wrangling before any changes are actually put into place.

Steve Goldsworthy talks with Jim Paules, founder of the American Heroes Airshow. Late in July the skies over Los Angeles were filled with helicopters. That’s not so unusual with all the ENG and police ships that can show up at the rumor of a pursuit, but what was unusual was the type of helicopters in the air. First in were two Pavehawks, a DEA Astar, a Vietnam era Huey, wow, this is not your average event. But for the American Heroes Airshow, it’s just the morning of fly in.

By William T. Winn - Anyone who has read Professor James Reason’s writings on human factors in accident causation is familiar with his well-known model of how causative factors can line up like the seemingly random holes in slices of Swiss cheese to result in a mishap or in a serious accident. Dr. Reason is professor of psychology at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. He has published books on motion sickness, human factors in transportation accidents, absent-mindedness, human error, and on identifying and managing organizational risk factors.

Helicopter pilots are no different than members of any other profession.  They, like the others, are human, process oxygen, and possess an ego which drives them to believe “I’m better than so and so.”  I call this the “My daddy can beat up your daddy” syndrome.”  “Look at me…”.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on the human condition.  I do, however, believe that we have a responsibility to insure that those who come into this profession behind us deserve the benefit of our great wisdom.  That may seem to be an egotistical statement in and of itself, but hear me out.

Safety — Where Do the Owner/Operators and Their Management Team Fit In?

By Matt Zuccaro - As you are aware, safety is my favorite topic, as I believe it ultimately affects everything we do in our industry — both in the present and for the future. With this in mind, you would think all owner/operators would have a laser focus on this issue, making it their number one decision criteria. In a perfect world that would be true, but last time I checked not everything we want occurs in the bright reality of day-to-day operations. However, it does not have to be that way.


By Kerry Sullivan - The article by Susan Parson in the March issue titled “Personal Minimums: A Development Guide” provides a systematic way for pilots to determine realistic safety margins for weather. The EMS operator I fly for requires its pilots to develop their own personal weather minimums which are to be more restrictive than those contained in the Operations Specifications. I have found more restrictive minimums necessary because I do not believe the generally used weather minimums are adequate to keep me out of Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IIMC). Despite strict weather minimums, detailed weather products and annual training in weather and pilot decision making we still have all too-frequent incidents of IIMC. As we are all painfully aware, some of these IIMC occurrences result in fatal accidents.

As a broker of used Robinson Helicopters, I receive two or three calls a day from prospective sellers and buyers inquiring as to the state of the market. My response is always the same: the market is active but depressed. While this may seem like a contradiction, it means that while there are still many buyers out there with the funds and desire to buy, they expect to pay much less than they would have paid just nine or ten months ago. Where a helicopter would have sold quickly for $375,000 last summer, the highest offer I might receive on the same ship today is $315,000. The result is that there are a lot of ships for sale, a lot of buyers making very low offers, and very few sales taking place.

By Dave Hardin - If you walk into the AeroAmbulancia hangar at the La Isabella Airport you’ll meet up with the first HEMS company to be certified to operate in the Dominican Republic (DR). If they’re not out on a flight, you’ll shake hands with some of the finest professionals in the business. Such was my honor over the past year as I’ve watched these folks get their Helicopter EMS (HEMS) operation up and running. AeroAmbulancia is a part of the Helidosa Aviation Group who has been in the helicopter tour business for quite a few years. Their country has adopted the U.S. FAA standards for operations conducted under Part 135. AeroAmbulancia was the first in the history of the DR to receive Operations Specifications for Helicopter EMS Operations.

Generally, accidents are not the result of any one single event, but the product of several. My view is that every flight must pass through several gates in sequential order for the accident to happen — the final gate being the pilot. Logically, we as pilots have the final opportunity to prevent an accident.

In November of 2008, a helicopter flight training school in Broomfield, Colorado, received their part 141 Certification, a designation earned through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The process of writing a standardized curriculum, training the Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs), and upgrading classroom facilities was rigorous, but the owners and instructors at this school were convinced that the benefits they would receive through certification would far out-weigh the heavy workload necessary to get there. They anticipated that their students would qualify for career training loans at a variety of banks and lending institutions, that the State of Colorado would allow access to training grants and loans available, and that ultimately federal grants and loans would be available to students who qualify through the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1956.

It didn’t take long for those beliefs to be shattered.

Why you don't make any money! By Willie Dykes

Foreword: The article is a little raw. It is an attempt to describe a 37 year love/hate relationship with this industry. The open-endedness is deliberate. Though it's a little hard to see in the exchanges contained in online forums, I have found helicopter pilots to be among the most intelligent, clear thinking, and broad minded people on the planet. They don't need to be told what to do. This problem of ours needs all the creativity and energy we can muster from the boys. If the discussion/debate is kept loud and noisy, the solution will emerge-usually from the least likely source. Your site is the best thing we have going for us. Power to the people.

While few places can match the truly amazing collection of aviation history that is on display at the Smithsonian National Air Space Museum, those with a particular interest in rotary wing flight might be left wanting a little more after a visit to the Smithsonian. Luckily there are some great aviation museums scattered around the country that, while not as large individually as the National Air and Space Museum, collectively hold an equally impressive amount of aviation history.

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