Rotorcraft – A Key Priority For Safety in Europe

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Rotorcraft – A Key Priority For Safety in Europe

Post by mark » Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:46 pm

Rotorcraft operations are a vital part of the European aviation system. Helicopters perform a wide range of important tasks that involve the carriage of passengers including offshore commercial air transport, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), air taxi or sightseeing). They are also involved in many specialised operations such as agricultural work, sling/load operations or photography. Additionally, helicopters also fly in non-commercial roles such as General Aviation and for training/instructional purposes. Pending the launch of EASA’s Rotorcraft web portal, this web page provides information on EASA’s strategic work to improve helicopter safety, the most recent accident statistics from our Annual Safety Review and the key safety actions related to Rotorcraft from the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS).

The work of EASA in the field of Rotorcraft operations is supported by the various National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) as well the industry members of the Rotorcraft Committee (R.COM), which is one of the Advisory Bodies that support the Agency’s decision making processes. Safety Promotion activities are also supported by the European Safety Promotion Network – Rotorcraft (ESPN-R). You can join in the discussion on the ESPN-R LinkedIn Group.

EASA Rotorcraft Roadmap
In December 2018, EASA officially launched the Rotorcraft Roadmap. With over 7,700 civil rotorcraft operating across Europe, helicopters provide a wide range of services to the community. This includes Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS), surveillance, police, aerial work, agriculture and offshore activities.

Currently in Europe there is one rotorcraft accident every week. The vision for the Rotorcraft Roadmap is to achieve a significant safety improvement with a growing and evolving aviation industry.

Objectives of the Rotorcraft Roadmap
The Rotorcraft Roadmap has the following key objectives:
  • Improve overall Rotorcraft safety by 50% within the next 10 years.
  • Make positive and visible changes to Rotorcraft Safety trends within the next 5 years.
  • Develop performance-based and proportionate solutions to help maintain competitiveness, leadership and the sustainability of European industry.
Key Enablers and Actions
The implementation of the Rotorcraft Roadmap will involve the following enablers and action areas:
  • Securing Financial Support for Safety Improvements.
  • Industry Consensus on Key Solutions.
  • Reduction in High-Risk Training Scenarios in Flight.
  • New Training Devices and Simulators.
  • Strategic Safety Partnerships and Safety Promotion.
  • Simplify and Reduce the Administrative Burdens and Costs to Operators.
  • Operations, Safety Management and Safety Culture.
  • Design and Maintenance.
  • Regulatory Actions.
  • Encourage and Facilitate New Technology Development.
Follow the progress of the Rotorcraft Roadmap on the EASA website and also on the Agency’s social media channels.

Offshore Helicopters – Key Statistics
In 2018, there were 4 serious incidents and no fatal or non-fatal accidents in helicopter offshore commercial air transport. The number of serious incidents in 2018 was higher than the average for the 10 year period prior to 2018.

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Offshore Helicopters – Key Risk Areas
Analysis of occurrences, accident recommendations and other information are used to identify the priority Key Risk Areas and the most important safety issues in Offshore Helicopter operations. The important Key Risk Areas are:
  • Aircraft Upset (Loss of Control) – including when caused by a technical failure.
  • Obstacle Collision in Flight
  • Landing Surface Excursions
  • Ground Collisions
Offshore Helicopters – Safety Issues
The most important safety issues for Offshore Helicopter operations are:
  • System Reliability
  • Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Operational Communication
  • Flight Planning and Preparation
  • Navigation and Airspace Knowledge
  • Wrong Deck Landing
  • Flight Path Management
  • Helicopter Maintenance
Commercial Operations – Other than Offshore Helicopters – Key Statistics
The number of reported occurrences in 2018 has significantly increased compared to 2017, and is the highest since 2008. There were two fatal accidents in 2018. The first fatal accident was an airborne collision in Germany between an Airbus Helicopter EC135 operating HEMS and a Piper PAW139 performing a training flight, with 4 fatalities. The second occurred in Portugal when an Agusta A109 conducting HEMS operations collided with a radio antenna before crashing on the ground resulting in 4 fatalities. The number of non-fatal accidents in 2018 was almost twice the average of the previous decade. For serious incidents, the numbers in 2018 were also considerably higher than the 10-year average.

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Commercial Operations – Other than Offshore Helicopters – Key Risk Areas
Analysis of occurrences, accident recommendations and other information are used to identify the priority Key Risk Areas and the most important safety issues for commercial operations excluding offshore. The important Key Risk Areas are:
  • Terrain Collision
  • Aircraft Upset (Loss of Control) – including when caused by a technical failure.
  • Obstacle Collision in Flight
Commercial Operations - Other than Offshore Helicopters – Safety Issues
The most important safety issues for Commercial Helicopter Operations other than Offshore are:
  • Perception and Situational Awareness
  • Helicopter Obstacle See and Avoid
  • Operations in Degraded Visual Environments
  • Decision Making and Planning
  • Software and Configuration
  • Flight Path Management
  • Experience, Training and Competence of Individuals
Helicopter Specialised Operations – Key Statistics
The total number of reported occurrences has been stable for the 3 last years. While the number of fatal accidents and non-fatal accidents in 2018 was slightly lower than the average of the preceding decade, the number of serious incidents was higher than average. There were two fatal accidents in 2018, both involving an Airbus Helicopter AS350 performing sling load operations.

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Helicopter Specialised Operations – Key Risk Areas
Analysis of occurrences, accident recommendations and other information are used to identify the priority Key Risk Areas and the most important safety issues in Helicopter specialised operations. The important Key Risk Areas are:
  • Aircraft Upset (Loss of Control) – including when caused by a technical failure.
  • Terrain Collision
  • Obstacle Collision in Flight
Helicopter Specialised Operations – Safety Issues
The most important safety issues for Helicopter specialised operations are:
  • Perception and Situational Awareness
  • Helicopter Obstacle See and Avoid
  • Flight Path Management
  • System Reliability
  • Development and Application of Rules and Procedures
  • Adverse Weather
  • Experience, Training and Competence of Individuals
  • Handling of Technical Failures
  • Operations in Degraded Visual Environments
  • Decision Making and Planning
Helicopter Non-Commercial Operations – Key Statistics
The total number of accidents and serious incidents in 2018 was the lowest since 2008, in line with the decreasing trend since 2013. However, the number of fatal accidents in 2018 increased as compared to 2017 and is slightly higher than the 10 year average.

The low number of reported serious incidents in comparison with the accidents suggests a weak reporting culture in helicopter non-commercial operations.
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Helicopter Non-Commercial Operations – Key Risk Areas
Analysis of occurrences, accident recommendations and other information are used to identify the priority Key Risk Areas and the most important safety issues in Helicopter non-commercial operations. The important Key Risk Areas are:
  • Aircraft Upset (Loss of Control) – including when caused by a technical failure.
  • Terrain Collision
Helicopter Non-Commercial Operations – Safety Issues
The most important safety issues for Helicopter Non-Commercial operations are:
  • Perception and Situational Awareness
  • Flight Path Management
  • System Reliability
  • Experience, Training and Competence of Individuals
  • Decision Making and Planning
  • Flight Planning and Preparation
  • Helicopter Obstacle See and Avoid
  • Operations in Degraded Visual Environments
  • Human Performance
Actions Ongoing to Reduce the Risks for Rotorcraft
In addition to the wide ranging actions in the Rotorcraft Roadmap, there are a number of EPAS actions in progress that cover the different Safety Issues outlined here. Some of these have applicability to the whole helicopter community and others relate only to specific operations and activities. In addition to the safety actions, EASA and our safety partners in the Rotorcraft Committee and European Safety Promotion Network – Rotorcraft work continually on both the analysis to identify the need for further actions and also various safety promotion tasks.
  • Helicopter impact and water impact occupant survivability (RMT.0120).
  • Pilot compartment view (RMT.0127).
  • Single engine helicopter operations (RMT.0318).
  • HEMS performance and public interest sites (RES.004).
  • Controlled flight into terrain avoidance with helicopter terrain avoidance warning systems (RMT.0708).
  • Flight time limitations requirements for helicopter operations (RMT.0494).
  • Prevention of catastrophic accidents due to rotorcraft hoist issues (RMT.0709).
  • Improvement in the survivability of rotorcraft occupants in the event of a crash (RMT.0710).
  • Reduction in accidents caused by failures of critical rotor and rotor drive components through improved vibration health monitoring systems (RMT.0711)
  • Enhancement of the safety assessment processes for rotorcraft designs (RMT.0712)
  • Reduction in human-factor-caused rotorcraft accidents that are attributed to the rotorcraft design (RMT.0713).
  • Enable the safe introduction of rotorcraft Fly-by-Wire technology (RMT.0714).
  • Rotorcraft flight crew operating manuals (FCOMs) – (RMT.0724/ SPT.082).
  • Rotorcraft chip detection system (RMT.0725).
  • Rotorcraft occupant safety in event of a bird strike (RMT.0726).
The main Safety Promotion tasks for Rotorcraft being developed by the ESPN-R are:
  • Improve dissemination of existing safety promotion material by developing mobile applications & e-platforms (SPT.092).
  • Helicopter safety and risk management (SPT.094).
  • Promote helicopter technologies with safety benefit (SPT.095).
  • Organise an annual safety workshop (SPT.096).
  • Promotion of other important helicopter safety issues (SPT.093/ SPT.098).
Helicopter Safety Promotion Material
The European Safety Promotion Network – Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) are working on lots of new and exciting Safety Promotion material that will be added to the Rotorcraft Web Portal every month. In the meantime there is a great deal of existing material that can be found on EASA’s Safety Promotion web page. New Safety Promotion material will be linked here when it becomes available.

The ESPN-R also manages two ESPN-R LinkedIn Group: a generic one (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7453300/) and a one dedicated to Hoist Operations Safety (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8693588/).

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