Day 1 of the annual event incorporating aerial firefighting, utilities, patrol, and construction work includes presentations on HEC, NVG, digital distraction in the cockpit, and more.
Close to 400 industry professionals attended Day 1 of HAI’s two-day Aerial Work Safety Conference at the Boise Centre West in Boise, Idaho, yesterday. The conference, formerly the HAI Aerial Firefighting Safety Conference, was renamed in recognition that it now incorporates the HAI Utilities, Patrol, and Construction Working Group’s safety event.
HAI Director of Flight Operations and Maintenance Zac Noble kicked off the conference emphasizing the event’s goal of continual focus on safety, whether attendees were learning new material or refreshing their knowledge. “You people, through your businesses and relationships, are what bring our industry forward,” he said.
HAI President and CEO James A. Viola gave a brief welcome to attendees, stressing he was there as an attendee to learn. “I’m here to get smart on how we can help you,” he said.
The first day’s agenda was packed with presentations ranging from FAA guidance on human external cargo (HEC) personnel-carrying device system (PCDS) standards and public use rules to educational sessions on night-vision goggles (NVG) firefighting and digital distraction and technology dependency.
The FAA’s session on flight data monitoring (FDM) and the Rotorcraft Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (R-ASIAS) system sparked an engaged discussion among the FAA, attendees, and FDM vendors, increasing awareness of the value of data collection to reduce risk.
“I’m here to tell you, this is a good thing,” Noble said about FDM at the close of the session. “What having a camera and recording equipment on board does, is it changes behavior. We collect data and we still have accidents. We need to encourage a behavior change.”
Of note was Airbus Helicopters Director of Aviation Education Bruce Webb’s dynamic WINGS credit pre-accident plan session highlighting the effects of human behavior on helicopter safety. Webb shared an experience when he was forced to make an emergency landing during a helicopter air ambulance flight 27 years ago. The patient was going downhill fast, putting pressure on the situation. Webb talked through how he wrestled with a “maybe this will work” option versus staying on the ground, and what he ultimately did.
From his experience, he offered valuable postmortem insights and questions pilots should ask themselves to identify potential human-error pitfalls before a flight. These questions include considering external pressures, possible hazardous environments if forced to land, whether familiarity with the aircraft is a positive or negative contributor to the decision, and current mental status.
“Just because you’re very capable, competent, and skilled does not mean you’re invincible,” he said as he completed his talk. “I implore you to slow down, make careful decisions, and the result of those should be safety.”
Highlights of the day also included a first-person account by Washington Army National Guard CWO3 Ryan Schwend of a sling-load emergency in the dark over Afghanistan. Schwend recounted the details of the event and what contributed to the decision chain during the event.