Posts Tagged safety

Eurocopter issues EC135 safety notice

Eurocopter has issued a Safety Information Notice to EC135 operators after being informed of a fuel indication issue on board the helicopter that crashed into a Glasgow pub last month, killing 10 people.

Subsequent fuel system functionality tests performed by the aircraft operator, Bond Air Services, and two other EC135 operators in Europe “have revealed possible similar supply-tank fuel gauging errors on some aircraft”, Eurocopter says in the notice, adding that it is currently undertaking its own in-depth investigation.

“The first analysis shows that the indication of the fuel quantity in the supply tanks could be overestimated,” Eurocopter says. “All crews should be aware that in the worst case a red warning ‘Low Fuel’ could appear without any amber FUEL Caution before.

“The red LOW FUEL 1/2 warnings are generated by an independent switching logic with separate sensors in each supply tank. The red LOW FUEL 1/2 warning lights continue to operate correctly even if the fuel gauging is inaccurate.

“Therefore, after illumination of LOW FUEL warnings the procedure iaw. the Flight Manual must be strictly complied with, notwithstanding of the fuel quantity indication.”

After an initial investigation into the Glasgow crash, the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the Police Scotland helicopter showed “no evidence of major mechanical disruption of either engine” and still had 95 litres of the 400kg of fuel with which it had taken off.

In a statement released yesterday, Bond Air Services said it had temporarily suspended service operations while it conducted checks on its fleet of EC135s.

“The results of these tests were subsequently validated by Eurocopter, and appropriate repairs made before returning the aircraft to service. We also took the decision to increase safety barriers by mandating that all our EC135s should maintain a minimum of 90kg of fuel onboard at all times.

“All our EC135 aircraft are now fully operational and are available for missions with our air ambulance and police customers,” it concluded.

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Land the damn helicopter!

President’s Message by US-based Helicopter Association International (HAI) President Matt Zuccaro

So, how is your day going? Mine was not that great. I spent it reading National Transportation Safety Board helicopter accident reports. I don’t know about you, but my level of frustration is at an all-time high.

There were no surprises. No one has yet invented a new way to crash helicopters. The reports noted the usual suspects — fuel exhaustion, continued flight in marginal weather resulting in inadvertent IMC and, in the minority, mechanical failures. To round it out, there was a pilot under the influence of both prescription and over-the-counter medications with no reporting to the FAA.

In many accidents, there is prior knowledge that all is not well. With fuel exhaustion, most pilots are aware of low fuel and the uncertainty of reaching fuel. In weather-related incidents, pilots know they are in less-than-desirable weather conditions, with difficulty maintaining visual flight rules. Accidents caused by mechanical failures involve alerts by warning systems and abnormal noises or vibrations. In a medical incapacitation or under-the-influence case, the pilot is usually aware of his substandard performance and diminished abilities.

With the above in mind and assuming an acceptable landing site is available, why don’t pilots exercise one of the most unique and valuable capabilities of vertical flight — namely, land the damn helicopter! In a high percentage of crashes, this simple act would break the chain of events and prevent the accident.

I once spoke to a pilot who had survived an accident and asked why he hadn’t used his option to make a precautionary landing. He indicated he had not given it direct consideration and had focused instead on destination and mission completion. He admitted, though, that in the past he had worried about the scrutiny he would incur for making a precautionary landing. This didn’t surprise me. In my early days of flying, I, too, pondered the same issues at times, although luckily I don’t any more.

Pilots normally associate precautionary landings with the police showing up, their company incurring logistical and legal costs, upset passengers refusing to fly with them again, the FAA wanting an explanation, the press asking questions, and peers expressing opinions on their abilities.


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Helicopter Pilots Model Code of Conduct released

The Helicopter Pilots Model Code of Conduct (HMCC), a set of safety guidelines that provides helicopter pilots with a framework for how to think and act in situations that may not be covered by procedures, checklists or operating manuals, has been released.

Developed in the US but applicable around the world, the guidelines, which were developed by a team of helicopter experts, offer recommendations to “advance helicopter flight safety, airmanship and professionalism”, according to the HMCC’s Permanent Editorial Board.

The board is made up of experts from a variety of aviation disciplines, such as United States Air force Academy professor Deonna Neal, Aircraft Electronics Association vice-president Ric Peri and retired US Air Force officer and professor Bill Rhodes.

It says the HMCC “articulates broad guidance – a set of values – to help a pilot interpret and apply standards and regulations, and to confront the real world challenges that could lead to a mishap”.

The code has seven sections: General Responsibilities of Helicopter Pilots; Passengers and People on the Surface; Training and Proficiency; Security; Environmental Issues; Use of Technology; and Advancement and Promotion of Aviation.

“The HMCC embodies the standards to which all helicopter pilots need to adhere,” said Fred Brisbois, the co-chair of the International Helicopter Safety Implementation Team. “It should serve as the basis for private and professional pilots to take personal responsibility for how they conduct themselves as pilots and promote the growth of the helicopter industry.

“But most importantly, flying in accordance with this code will save lives!”

Download the HMCC in Word, PDF or HTML format here.

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Laser pointed at NSW PolAir2: man charged

PolAir2 on patrol over Sydney Harbour last week. Photo by PolAir - NSW Police Force Airwing (Facebook).

A man accused of directing a laser pointer at a police helicopter will appear in a Sydney court next month.

New South Wales police say that PolAir2 was conducting air patrols of Sydney’s south-west at about 8.30pm on Saturday (July 20) when a laser pointer was allegedly shone at the crew from Konrad Avenue at Greenacre.

The chopper crew alerted Bankstown Police who arrested a 36-year-old man after executing a search warrant at the address last night.

The man was taken to Bankstown Police Station and charged with doing an act to threaten the safety of an aircraft or person. He was granted conditional bail to appear before Bankstown Local Court on Wednesday, August 21.

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