Photo above: iStock/zoranm

Our aircraft talk to us long before they start making noise. Are we listening?

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” It’s used by some of the world’s most elite operators as a reminder to adopt the focused and disciplined habits that are crucial to maintaining situational awareness and driving mission success. They know that taking the time to do things right always makes the mission go more smoothly. The most professional commercial helicopter pilots and technicians apply a similar mindset and refuse to be rushed.

How Do You Rate?
How would you rate your patience and discipline when faced with the realities of impatient customers, approaching weather, or just plain nasty environmental conditions? Think oppressive heat or humidity, frigid cold, torrential rain—mosquitos!

Let’s be honest. Only the superhuman among us could claim an unblemished record in this area. We all have likely rushed planning or maybe skipped a step that we deemed insignificant in the interest of time or comfort. Those who escaped a negative outcome probably did so out of sheer luck, fueling complacency and a temptation to do it again.

Have procedural deviations become more common in our industry? I’ll leave that assessment to each individual reader. If you do find yourself cutting corners, however, there’s no time like the present for a reset to get back to basics. I’m happy to report that there’s a ready-made solution to help us slow down and mitigate the most common risk in every rotorcraft operation—the human.

Use an Approved Checklist
Referencing approved technical and procedural checklists forces us to slow down and, essentially, give our aircraft a voice—an early opportunity to speak or even just whisper to us about a looming problem long before it escalates and we hear shrill warning tones or, worse, ominous silence.

In this, our 35th Spotlight on Safety (SOS) video message, “Listen to Your Aircraft,” we interview Airbus Director of Education Bruce Webb, who focuses on the importance of taking the time to prevent accidents. This presentation echoes one of our first SOS videos, “Slow Your Roll,” released for an important reason in early 2020: We continue to have preventable accidents linked to procedural oversights. In response, we’ll keep beating the drum that the use of approved checklists when completing  maintenance, preflight, hover, postflight, and other important procedures can prevent human error.

When we routinely use written, approved maintenance and operational checklists, we slow down just enough to hear what our aircraft are trying so desperately to tell us. Can you hear them?

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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