Getting it Done 

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How a dedicated group of helicopter safety volunteers set out to make a difference and save lives 

Have you ever tried to get 600+ volunteer safety stakeholders together to achieve a common goal? It’s not easy. But when your vision is to reduce the civil rotorcraft fatal accident rate to zero, you’ll need all the help you can get – and more than just a little luck!     

Admittedly, a realistic number of “active USHST members” is fewer than 60. The remaining are content to follow the USHST’s body of work and consume products like this inaugural issue of the USHST quarterly. But chances are you are missing quite a bit of the fine work this committed group is doing to keep you informed and deliver a wealth of resources.   

Organizations seeking a unified purpose must identify their vision, mission, and goals. The USHST is no different. These defining statements are available on the USHST’s About Us page, but I will reiterate that the “USHST’s vision is a civil US registered helicopter community with zero fatal accidents.”  The team has focused on reducing the likelihood of falling prey to the most common causes of fatal accidents. So, what are the most common causes of rotorcraft accidents?   

For the past several years, the top three primary occurrence categories cited in U.S. N-registered commercial rotorcraft fatal accidents are:  

  • Loss of Control – In Flight (LOC-I) 
  • Unintended Flight in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (UIMC) 
  • Striking an Object when Operating at Low Altitude (LALT) 

Armed with that knowledge, the USHST set out to narrow the scope of their work to help prevent fatal accidents linked to these common accident influences – a data-driven approach. After more analysis to determine what actions could best influence fatal accident rates, 16 discrete helicopter safety enhancements (H-SEs) were identified, and dedicated teams set out to get the work done. After adjusting a few final H-SE outputs (deliverables), the team declared completion of all their open H-SEs in 2023! Given the limited time our members had available to support H-SE development, their steady and persistent efforts have paid huge dividends for everyone in our community.  

The USHST has produced dozens of valuable resources. You can find links to their published outputs on the USHST’s H-SE Details page. A detailed report describing the background, development, and outputs of all completed H-SEs is available with links to each H-SE output. A companion H-SE slide deck is also available for download. H-SE outputs include links to white papers, best practices, guidance, and posters. The USHST has recently developed videos, training courses, and podcasts.  

Perhaps their most ambitious project in recent years, the USHST coordinated the development of the “56 Seconds to Live” video series and training course. There are over a dozen related links to resources dedicated to preventing accidents linked to UIMC, LOC-I, LALT, and spatial disorientation available at https://ushst.org/56secs. Each year, the USHST also provides a rotor safety challenge course at HAI HELI-EXPO focused on delivering critical messages from the “56-Seconds” campaign. You can sign up for the free course and join the USHST in the ROTOR SAFETY ZONE in Anaheim, CA.  To learn more and register, go to https://heliexpo.com.  

The USHST and PUSH TO TALK© podcast teamed up recently to review five of the USHST’s recently completed H-SEs. To learn what host Bruce Webb and USHST Industry Co-Chair Chris Baur have to say about their favorite H-SEs, go to Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast platform and search for “Push to Talk with Bruce Webb.” The podcast “Safety Series” discusses the following H-SEs and much more:  

  • Safety Culture and Professionalism 
  • Managing Risk in Flight 
  • Understanding Helicopter Aerodynamics 
  • How to Recover from Spatial Disorientation 

So, what’s next for the USHST? More H-SEs, of course! The USHST has identified five new H-SEs, and we are looking for a fresh group of volunteers to participate. If you are just interested in learning more about the USHST, or would like to help this team of dedicated volunteers prevent fatal helicopter accidents, go to the Follow USHST Page and complete the form indicating your level of interest. 

We look forward to hearing from you or having you on the team!    

Chris Hill,
Senior Director of Safety
Helicopter Association International

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