The United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) will announce the development of a Peer Pilot Program during the USHST all-hands meeting at HAI HELI-EXPO 2024 as part of several new safety initiatives.

The Peer Pilot Program’s goal is to have volunteer pilots and others act as resources for other pilots facing mental health or life issues. Pilots would reach out to USHST to link with a peer for support in a safe and confidential space.

“The USHST in collaboration with Helicopter Association International (HAI) identified the need for a Peer Pilot program, providing assistance to pilot who may have encountered turbulence in their lives,” said USHST Industry Co-Chair Chris Baur of Hughes Aerospace. “We all need and want to do more for are fellow pilots, and address things that we can before they have an opportunity to manifest as an accident or incident.”

Pilot mental health and reporting culture will be further explored through USHST-sponsored FAA presentations at HAI HELI-EXPO 2024. Other USHST all-hands meeting topics include helicopter safety enhancements (H-SEs), which are targeted efforts to reduce accidents and safety risks.

The USHST all-hands meeting will take place at 2:45 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Monday, February 26, in Room 210D in the Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California. The room number may change, so check for updates at the convention. Audio access will be live streamed. The USHST is a volunteer team of U.S. government and industry stakeholders formed to improve the safety of civil helicopter and vertical aviation operations in the National Airspace System.

HAI HELI-EXPO, meanwhile, is the world’s largest trade show dedicated to the vertical aviation industry, with more than 600 exhibitors and an expected attendance of more than 14,000 rotorcraft professionals.

Pilot mental health gained national attention most recently after an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot in October attempted to cut the engines of a Horizon Air flight from Everett, Wash., to San Francisco.  In 2015, a European pilot intentionally crashed an airliner into the French Alps.  The FAA encourages pilots to seek help if they have a mental-health condition. Most conditions, if treated, do not disqualify a pilot from flying.

Dr. Penny Giovanetti of the FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine estimated that 80 percent of the pilots who initially apply for medical certification with a history of a mental health diagnosis. can continue to fly under a special issuance. Most of the other 20 percent will eventually be cleared to fly after further evaluation.

Dr. Giovanetti will speak about pilot mental health at Heli-Expo on Tuesday, February 27, from 11 a.m. to noon, in the RSC Classroom. “Ask a Doc: Aviation Medical Issues” will follow from 2:15  to 3:15 p.m., also Tuesday, at the HAI Connect booth.

USHST is also expected to discuss updates regarding its new H-SEs. The USHST released its first safety enhancements in 2017 after analyzing over 100 fatal helicopter accidents. More than 110 H-SEs were developed with 25 eventually selected. To streamline resources, several of the original H-SEs were combined further reducing the total number of H-SEs to 16.  In February 2023 all of the original 16 H-SEs were completed.

Bruce Webb of Airbus’s Push to Talk and USHST Co-Chair Chris Baur created the first Safety Series podcasts featuring four HS-E’s on Safety Culture, Managing Risk in Flight, Helicopter Aerodynamics, Spatial Disorientation. You can find them here ushst.org/podcasts.

Five new safety enhancements were chosen in 2023:

  • Promote conservative go/no-go decision-making (including performance planning) before and during flights.
  • Educate about the hazards of low-level operations (includes consideration of wire strike protection devices, hazard detection capability, and emerging technology). Utility wire strikes, tower strikes and other obstacle strikes are a major cause of helicopter accidents.
  • Improve risk management of night operations, including factors unique to “dark” night operations. Flying at night increases risks particularly in areas that experience the most accidents, such as loss of control.
  • Improve fatigue awareness and promote schedules that allow for adequate rest to prevent fatigue.
  • Training on the effects of adverse wind situations, particularly performance issues at low airspeeds.

All of the H-SEs can be found at ushst.org/h-se-details.  If you cannot attend the all-hands meeting in person, audio access will be live streamed. Please email your contact information to [email protected], and USHST will send you the link. Would you like to take a more active role in supporting the USHST?  Please go to ushst.org/join-ushst and complete the form.

The USHST published its first newsletter, and you can sign up for automatic distribution every quarter:  ushst.org/ushst-january-2024-newsletter. For more information about the USHST and its safety efforts visit: ushst.org.

 

About the US Helicopter Safety Team
The USHST is a volunteer team of US government and industry stakeholders formed to improve the safety of civil helicopter operations in the National Airspace System. The USHST is a partner of the Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST). The USHST vision is a civil US registered helicopter community with zero fatal accidents.

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