Read More: How Do You Deal with IIMC?
June 05, 2020

Inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) is one of the top three causes of fatal helicopter accidents. To determine how pilots are preparing themselves to survive—and avoid—IIMC encounters, we surveyed readers anonymously about their practices. ROTOR received nearly 750 responses over a two-week period, reflecting how important this issue is to HAI’s members. 

Seventy percent of respondents answered yes to the question of whether they’re an IFR-rated pilot. Fifty-five percent of those respondents maintain their IFR skills by regularly practicing IIMC recovery using a simulator or other training device, and 52% regularly file and fly IFR. 

Respondents who lack a rotorcraft instrument rating cited the fact that their company flies only VFR missions as the main reason they haven’t obtained a rating (49%). Only 13.5% said they haven’t obtained an instrument rating because they don’t anticipate encountering IIMC.

We also asked respondents to provide any additional comments they wished about IFR versus VFR operations. Here are some of their illuminating—and candid—responses. 

We should also be discussing night operations and their strong similarity to IMC. I’ve always treated night flying as IMC. … Being “surprised” is not acceptable.

Don’t fool yourself in thinking that having an instrument rating is the answer to handling IIMC. Being instrument rated and current is NOT the same as being prepared and trained to deal with IIMC. IIMC is all about surviving the first couple of minutes; your only goal is to not lose control and not hit anything. After those first couple of minutes, your regular instrument skills become relevant again.

IIMC deaths will continue as long as we’re allowed to fly clear of clouds at an airspeed that allows you to see and avoid objects while carrying passengers.

IIMC may present a greater risk to IFR-rated pilots flying VFR profiles than VFR-only–rated pilots. Being comfortable in IMC may sway the pilot’s judgment and increase their acceptance of deteriorating conditions to a point beyond which they run out of options for a positive outcome.

Technologies like [enhanced flight] vision systems can help, as well as increased focus on standard operating procedures and risk management via an effective safety management system and flight data monitoring. [Also] addressing topics like spatial disorientation through better training/technology advancements.

It’s disappointing that most Part 135 operators of charter aircraft don’t conduct IIMC training or checking during annual checkrides. Not only do operators fail to prepare pilots for IIMC, they actively pressure pilots into flying in weather conditions conducive to an IIMC event. … I call on HAI to prioritize pilots and safety ahead of operators’ business needs. Part of this can be achieved by pressuring operators to train and check pilots for IIMC, as well as pressuring the FAA to simplify both the certification of single-engine turbine helicopters for IFR flight and the process of obtaining an IFR Ops Spec.

Synthetic vision is a game changer and should be a required basic tool.

Read More: One Question, Many Answers
January 16, 2020

What are the top reasons other than pay that helicopter industry pros stay with an employer?

People join and stay with a company for many reasons and, according to the latest research, money isn’t at the top of the list. ROTOR surveyed our readers and asked them to reveal (anonymously) the nonfinancial reasons they choose an employer (respondents could provide more than one answer).

1. Supportive, Trustworthy Management (29% of respondents)

“Management that treats the employee with respect, gives clear direction, provides proper equipment/facilities, and encourages open and honest communication.” 

2. Work–Life Balance (23% of respondents)

“Some flexibility that allows for a happy family life.”

“Benefits that reduce stress at home and with family so you can concentrate on work.”

3. Company Culture (23% of respondents)

“You have to believe in the mission your company/program is performing. If their goals are something you don’t believe in, you won’t give 100%.”

“Finding a company with the same values related to safety, education, efficiency, etc., that I have.”

4. Stable Location, Schedule (23% of respondents)

“Geographical stability after moving so often in the military.”

“I’m a prior Coast Guard pilot and moved eight times in 20 years.”

“I enjoy the stability of my schedule (six on / six off).”

Read More: What new technological breakthrough would benefit your operations?
June 19, 2019

A deicing system for light twin helicopters with a useful weight penalty and price. It would be a revolution for HAA in parts of the world where icing is an issue.
– Erik Normann, Drøbak, Norway

Plug ’n fly electronic ignition for piston engines (We’re still using magnetos? C’mon man!)
– Dave Hynes, Hampton Roads, VA, USA

Why isn’t there a laser rangefinder that would keep you aware of obstacles? Cars have them.
– James Maxxwell, Jacksonville, FL, USA

Inexpensive radar altimeters for helicopters. Existing and certified RA technology is well over 10 years old and at least $25,000 per helicopter installed. With all the recent developments in the drone and autonomous vehicle sectors, the cost of reliable sensing that could be used for helicopter altitude sensing has plummeted to where an installed cost could be less than 1⁄10 of that price per helicopter: $2,500.
– Wesley Verkaart, Plymouth, MA, USA

Synthetic vision inspection of aircraft.
– Joel Collins, Maui, HI, USA

LED induced-voltage powered marker lights on electrical distribution power lines crossing any major highways that might be routinely used as landing zones for HAA operations.
– Rick Bartlett, Cumberland, MD, USA

Many single-engine helicopters possess avionics capable of supporting IFR flight. The FAA’s support for single-engine IFR certification would reduce the number of fatal accidents, especially due to controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).
Chris Baur, Kingwood, TX, USA

My operation could really use a patient litter for an R66.
– Mark Spangler, Glendale, AZ, USA

Affordable eye-movement tracking devices for seeing what students are doing in their scan patterns.
– Candise Tu, Carlsbad, CA, USA

Read More: What is the greatest threat to the helicopter industry?
November 13, 2018

Competition for qualified helicopter aviation professionals, combined with a decreasing pool of new entries into the professions, is driving up personnel costs. The experience shortage will impact safety when “old hands” are no longer available to instruct and train students. This trend will eventually make rotary-wing services economically unsupportable when compared to autonomous vehicles and alternate transportation services.

Rick Kenin
Chief Operating Officer–Transport
Boston MedFlight