Procedures exist so that you avoid repeating the accidents of others.
The high rate of helicopter flight–related mishaps in recent years is alarming. Yet, despite endless preaching and PowerPoint presentations, pilots continue to power perfectly good helicopters into the dirt.
Instead of telling you about why it’s important to fly safe, I’m going to ask you to focus on how to be safe. Here’s the secret: stop letting external factors influence your actions, properly weigh the risks before starting the engine(s), and most importantly—follow procedures!
It seems pilots and maintainers often fail to follow procedures, sometimes intentionally. This is referred to as procedural (intentional) noncompliance, or PiNC.
You can begin to see the severity of the problem when you consider the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group’s analysis of commercial jet airplane hull loss statistics from 1982–91.(1) “Boeing claimed that flying pilot adherence to procedures could have prevented 50 percent of the 232 fatal hull losses in that ten-year period.” Boeing further concluded that this figure would have been higher if the nonflying pilot’s failure to comply with procedures was included.
Procedures for checking aviation weather and filing flight plans are clearly delineated in FAA regulations. Yet, according to 2016 research, weather was a cause or contributing factor in 35 percent of fatal GA accidents, of which 60 percent occurred while instrument meteorological conditions were present.(2) How many of these mishaps could have been avoided if pilots had simply followed procedures?
In 2006, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) went so far as to write letters to all Australian pilots about their lack of adherence to mandatory procedures. The Australian regulator stated that flight crews “may also attempt non-standard procedures because they mistakenly believe they are safer than the approved, and legally mandatory, procedures.”(3) Ignoring procedures so that you can be safer runs counter to the common maxim that aviation regulations are written in blood—the regulations and the procedures they mandate exist precisely to prevent or avoid unsafe conditions.
This ROTOR features the debut appearance of a regular department: Recent Accidents & Incidents. In this issue, we list 43 rotary-wing accidents and incidents that have occurred between July 1, 2018, and September 30, 2018. Forty-three—in only three months! And that list draws mostly from the United States (although we will add coverage of other countries in the future).
In future columns, I and other writers will discuss additional ways to fly safe. But in the meantime, do yourself (and those you fly with) a favor: follow procedures!
1. Graeber and Moodi, “Understanding flight crew adherence to procedures: The procedural event analysis too (PEAT);” 1998.
2. Andrew J. Fultz & Walker S. Ashley. Physical Geography, 2016. “Fatal weather-related general aviation accidents in the United States.” http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02723646.2016.1211854.
3. CASA warns pilots: It’s deadly to ignore procedures; 26 June 2006; CASA.