Giving thanks to the amazing team that produced 56 Seconds to Live.

Day One at Airbus Helicopters, Grand Prairie, Texas

“Action!”

On Sep. 21, 2020, videographer Sheldon Cohen of Cohen Pictures began filming the first take of 56 Seconds to Live, a short video depicting the fate of an errant helicopter pilot who continues VFR flight into poor weather.

The US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) based the film on the well-known 178 Seconds to Live video for airplane pilots. The intent was to dramatically illustrate how much more quickly a helicopter pilot can lose control than a fixed-wing pilot following unintended flight into instrument meteorological conditions (UIMC).

Laurel Bowman, 56 Seconds Director

“US accident statistics reveal that a helicopter pilot who unintentionally continues VFR flight into IMC will very likely lose control of their aircraft and be dead within a median time of 56 seconds,” says Nick Mayhew, USHST’s industry co-chair. “We must join industry stakeholders to do everything we can to reverse this alarming and unacceptable trend.”

HAI answered the call.

“When I learned about the 56 Seconds to Live concept, I was all in,” says HAI President and CEO Jim Viola.  “HAI, through its foundation, was pleased to commit the resources needed to ensure the success of the project.”

Sheldon Cohen, 56 Seconds videographer

Viola directed his staff to help lead the project and secure the remaining support needed from a long list of internal and external contributors.

Managing a project of this magnitude was certainly a daunting challenge, but the 56 Seconds team was up to the task. While the work effort was widely distributed, generous support from Airbus Helicopters and Frasca Flight Simulation was critical to the project’s success.

Airbus provided the production team with two days of unfettered access to the OEM’s immaculately maintained H125 airframe. Airbus’s director of aviation education, Bruce Webb, who coordinated all logistics and support from the company’s Grandview, Texas, facilities, has high expectations for the project’s reach. “We hope this video will be seen by people all over the world,” said Webb at the conclusion of a grueling two days of on-location filming.

Esther Beckett, Story Pilot and Supporting Actor

The Frasca team in Urbana, Illinois, also recorded an extensive video library of AS350 simulations that enabled our video production team to depict some of the more harrowing in-flight segments you see in the 56 Seconds video series.  The list of other project contributors who created, delivered, and promoted the suite of videos and other valuable learning content is far too extensive to detail. A comprehensive list of key project participants is provided at the end of this article.

“We decided to go big,” says Chris Hill, HAI’s director of safey. “We wanted to deliver a strong message that resonated with the helicopter pilot community.”

The team sought to reach viewers on a personal level. A rotorcraft version of the aforementioned Air Safety Institute classic 178 Seconds to Live video served as a baseline. But the team wanted to balance shock with solutions.

Scott Boughton, Voiceover Artist

“We wanted to put viewers in the pilot’s seat to experience firsthand how quickly a series of seemingly normal but flawed decisions could lead to tragedy,” Hill adds. “We also wanted to provide alternate scenarios for pilots to store in their aeronautical decision-making tool kits to help them promptly recognize and break a fatal accident chain.”

Jay Smack, Voiceover Artist

The accident video is just the start. Five dramatic videos make up only part of the comprehensive online training course that features a host of tactics, techniques, and procedures shared by some of the rotorcraft industry’s most respected pilots and instructors.

Advait Ghuge, Lead Actor/Pilot

When lead actor Advait Ghuge, who portrays the pilot in 56 Seconds to Live, was asked what it was like to be inside the mind of a helicopter pilot, he noted several takeaways that his real-world counterparts know all too well. “There are so many elements to consider,”says Ghuge. “There’s so much situational awareness that you need at all times and so much judgment that goes into these moments—it’s incredible.”

To take the course, which takes approximately one hour to complete, go to USHST/56-secs/training. To view the full library of 56 Seconds to Live resources, visit ushst.org/56secs.

Key Project Participants

Director

  • Laurel Bowman

Cast

  • Lead Actor (the pilot): Advait Ghuge / com
  • Talent: The Kim Dawson Agency /
  • Dispatcher: Esther Beckett, Airbus Helicopters

Pilots

  • Story Pilot: Esther Beckett, Airbus Helicopters
  • Simulator Pilot: Randy Gawenda, Frasca International

Voiceover Artists

  • Dramatic Videos: Jay Smack / com
  • Lesson Content: Scott Boughton / com

Dramatic Video Production

  • Video Production Lead: Sheldon Cohen / Cohen Pictures / com
  • Videographer: Allan Simpson, Frasca International / com
  • Voiceover Artist: Jay Smack / com
  • Video Editor: Andrew Mairs / com
  • Sound Engineer: Jason McDaniel / com
  • Video Color Correction and Graphics: Ilya Osovets
  • Key Grip: Joe Saldana
  • Grip: Don Merritt

Dramatic Video Music

Training Course Video Messages

  • Dawn Groh, President and CEO, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Chris Hill, Director of Safety, Helicopter Association International
  • Nick Mayhew, Industry Co-Chair, US Helicopter Safety Team
  • Tim Tucker, Instructor, Robinson Helicopter Co.
  • Jim Viola, President and CEO, Helicopter Association International
  • Bruce Webb, Director of Aviation Education, Airbus Helicopters

Training Course Video Production / Videographers

  • Sheldon Cohen, Director of Photography / Cohen Pictures / com
  • Videographer: Allan Simpson, Graphics and Media Specialist, Frasca Flight Simulation / com
  • Video Editor: PJ Barbour, Helicopter Association International
  • Jason Kadah, Director of Communication and Marketing, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Loretta Conley, Head of Public Relations, Robinson Helicopter Co.

Film Locations

  • Airbus Helicopters, Grand Prairie, Texas
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona
  • Frasca Flight Simulation, Urbana, Illinois
  • Helicopter Association International, Alexandria, Virginia
  • Robinson Helicopter Co., Torrance, California

Training Course Development

  • Stacey Murphy, CourseArc, LLC / com
  • Heather Utendorf, CourseArc, LLC / com

Training Course Primary Content Developers

  • Scott Boughton, Vice Chair, HAI Training Working Group
  • Greg Brown, Director of Education, HAI
  • Chris Hill, Director of Safety, HAI
  • Rick Kenin, Chair, HAI Safety Working Group
  • Nick Mayhew, Industry Co-Chair, US Helicopter Safety Team
  • Terry Palmer, Chair, HAI Training Working Group
  • Scott Tyrell, FAA (56 Seconds video concept originator)
  • Bruce Webb, Director of Aviation Education, Airbus Helicopters

Learning Management System

  • Tom Allen, CEO, Opango, Inc. / com
  • Gregory Brown, Director of Education, HAI

Marketing and Communications

  • Jaasmin Foote, Social Media Manager, HAI
  • Jay Clark, Director of Information Technology, HAI
  • Colten Hill, Logo Design, HAI
  • Rob Volmer, VP, Marketing and Communications, HAI

Interviews

Author

  • After an aviation career in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris Hill oversaw aviation safety management systems throughout the USCG as aviation safety manager. He holds an ATP rating and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours, primarily in military and commercial helicopters. Chris joined HAI in 2018 as director of safety.

Chris Hill

Chris Hill

After an aviation career in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris Hill oversaw aviation safety management systems throughout the USCG as aviation safety manager. He holds an ATP rating and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours, primarily in military and commercial helicopters. Chris joined HAI in 2018 as director of safety.

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