A new approach to improved rotorcraft safety

Thumbnail Image
Bowles, G.J.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Data in every corner of the world indicates that “pilot error” (pilot judgment & actions, safety culture/management, etc.) is by far the leading contributor to fatal rotorcraft accidents (EHEST Analysis of 2000-2005 European Helicopter Accidents - 2010). As such, notable safety efforts have aimed at producing better pilots through training and organisational culture. This is a completely rational and sensible approach; perhaps, in addition, there are technologies that can come into play that can effectively reduce pilot error and that could provide greater safety benefit if they were more attainable. Often these candidate technologies are ruled out early in the process because the airworthiness codes are not written in a manner that is conducive to the introduction of new technology. Cautiousness and conservatism in the initial airworthiness codes is not a new condition but there might be another way. Over the last decade, the global small aeroplane community has been traveling a bold new path to dramatically improve safety, while simultaneously reducing the cost and effort required to certify new products and retrofittable technologies. The differences between the rotorcraft world and the fixed wing world are great but there is a powerful example of how attainable technology can save lives in the aeroplane world. As with rotorcraft, controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) was the second highest cause of fatal accidents over the last decade. This is where the similarity ends however. When looking at the U.S. fatal, fixed wing accident rate for CFIT accidents one sees a dramatic reduction – one which is not linked to any new regulation.