Photo above: HAI/Victor Lara
US governmental presentations were on tap the second day of the conference, with a video from Idaho Sen. James E. Risch recognizing the value of helicopters in preventing and suppressing wildfires followed by updates from the FAA, the US Forest Service, and the US Department of the Interior.
Day 2 of the HAI Aerial Work Safety Conference began with a video from Idaho Sen. James E. Risch, who acknowledged the value of helicopter operations in the prevention and suppression of wildland fires (a term that encompasses prescribed fire and wildfire) and set the stage for highly anticipated updates from the FAA, US Forest Service (USFS), and US Department of the Interior (DOI).
FAA Aerospace Engineer Luke Walker kicked off the government updates by giving a quick introduction to his Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) 360 program and its support for safety in aviation. The DOI then took the stage, highlighting that helicopter accidents in its operations are trending downward, with zero DOI accidents reported in the past fiscal year. Keith Raley, DOI chief, aviation safety, training, program evaluations, and quality management, also noted contracts currently make up 80% of DOI operations.
The DOI attributes the reduced accident trend to the government’s increased focus on safety management systems (SMSs) in its contracts. Josh Haney, a DOI Office of Aviation Services program analyst, shared insights into the agency’s SMS requirements, what’s expected from contractors, and how the government weighs aspects of SMS when choosing to award contracts.
“If you’re not that into SMS, you’re not only not going to be doing work with the DOI in the future but [not] with [any] federal government agency,” Raley said, emphasizing the focus on SMS.
Raley also noted that the government is looking into company flight operations quality assurance programs as a potential future requirement.
Lori Clark, an aviation safety officer for the USFS, dovetailed from the DOI update, highlighting statistics and trends from the past year. She noted that accident and incident rates are trending down for the USFS, too, and discussed safety trends and areas for improvement.
Both updates garnered robust discussion, questions, and answers, with considerable focus on clarification of SMS requirements.
Neither agency was able to talk about contracts because of the process at the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), but both presenters expressed hope that proposals would go out in January 2023. If the GAO required significant changes to proposals, however, they indicated that proposals could be sent out as late as April or May.
USFS Fire Analyst Rick Stratton then gave a presentation on the USFS Risk Management Assistance program, additional telemetry units (ATUs) and the data collected from them, and a review of the aviation use summary that uses ATU data. Stratton illustrated how these data overall help the agencies better predict asset needs each year.
Day 2 was also packed with educational sessions, including three WINGS credit sessions: a dynamic presentation on flying blind from Airbus Helicopters Director of Aviation Education Bruce Webb, a Bambi Bucket refresher by Volo Mission VP of Operations Andre Hutchings, and an overview by Dr. Pierre Moeser of the aviation implications of CBD and medical marijuana.
International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) Operations Manager Katherine Hilst also provided an insightful session explaining IS-BAO, how to use this SMS tool, and recent IS-BAO updates affecting rotorcraft aviation.