Read More: Unplanned VFR Flight into IMC
June 05, 2020

1 DO get trained and stay proficient. Training, certification, and proficiency are the best weapons against inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC). Even if you’re not instrument rated or have lapsed in currency, you can still improve your recognition of and recovery from unplanned flight into degraded visual environments. You can conduct this training in an aircraft or Level D simulator, but you can also use low-cost aviation training devices or desktop simulation programs to develop and maintain your instrument skills and improve your confidence to deal with unplanned IMC. 

2 DON’T even think about attempting VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions. The FAA offers a subtle warning in its Helicopter Flying Handbook: “If the pilot isn’t instrument rated, instrument current, or proficient, or is flying a non–IFR-equipped helicopter, remaining in VMC [visual meteorological conditions] is paramount” (https://bit.ly/3a3mby6, pages 11–24 through 11–26). 

We prefer to state it more boldly: In an unplanned VFR flight into IMC, if you’re not a highly proficient ­instrument-rated pilot operating a fully certificated IFR aircraft, your chances of surviving beyond two minutes are nearly ZERO. 

3 DO set, announce, and follow your personal limits. Clearly understand and consistently abide by the limitations of your aircraft, your skills, and regulations—without compromise! Always brief your takeoff minimums and en route decision points before you fly. Doing so manages the expectations of your crew and passengers and ensures that active risk management is integrated into all phases of flight planning and execution.

4 DON’T scud run! IFR does not stand for “I follow roads.” Focusing on what’s below you is a sure way to collide with what’s in front of you (terrain, wires, towers, etc.). Take note if you’re getting lower (for example, 500 feet agl) or slower (such as 50 KIAS [knots indicated airspeed]) just to maintain your visual references. You likely have already reached a decision point and need to return home, amend your flight to avoid IMC, or if a safe landing can be made, simply get the helicopter on the ground and Land & LIVE! 

5 DO respond immediately and decisively if you enter IMC. Despite warnings to avoid continued VFR flight into bad weather, it still happens. If you have an unexpected entry into IMC, what you do in the next few seconds will determine your fate. First and always, make helicopter control a priority above all other duties or distractions.

Here are the five basic steps all pilots should be trained to execute immediately if they ever encounter IIMC: 

  1. Wings: Level the bank angle using the attitude indicator 
  2. Attitude: Set a climb attitude that achieves a safe climb speed
  3. Airspeed: Verify that the attitude selected has achieved the desired airspeed 
  4. Power: Adjust to a climb power setting relative to the desired airspeed
  5. Heading and trim: Pick a heading known to be free of obstacles and maintain it.

Note: The guidance available on IIMC is much too extensive to limit to only five steps. We strongly encourage all pilots to refer to the 2019 release of the FAA’s Helicopter Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-21B. Pages 11–24 through 11–26 include several updates addressing how best to avoid and respond to VFR flight into IMC.

Read More: 5 Best Practices for Minimizing Your Helicopter’s Noise
January 20, 2020

  1.  During level flight, accelerations are quieter than decelerations, and straight flight is quieter than turning flight. These proven techniques for operating your aircraft enable pilots to fly more quietly and reduce annoyance from noise. The continued growth of helicopter aviation requires the acceptance and support of people who live and work in your communities and who are affected by helicopter noise.
     
  2. If turning, remember that turning away from the advancing blade (especially when decelerating) is quieter than turning into the advancing blade, and level turns are quieter than descending turns. Make a daily effort to lessen the noise impact of your aircraft on the neighborhoods below your flight path. The helicopter industry’s future financial prosperity depends on your ability to fly neighborly and minimize helicopter noise impacts. Helicopter noise, and the opposition to helicopter operations it often creates, is slowing the growth of the industry.
     
  3. During a descent, straight-in flight is quieter than turning flight, and steeper approaches are quieter than shallow approaches. Don’t give people living in noise-affected areas more reasons to oppose helicopter operations, and don’t provide the noise-affected population with justification to restrict your ability to provide important services to the communities you serve and to impact your livelihood as an aviation professional.
     
  4. If decelerating, remember that level-flight decelerations are quieter than descending or turning-flight decelerations. Fly neighborly every day, always mindful of how you can reduce the noise you are creating. The public is watching and will hold you accountable for the way you operate your aircraft. Because of social media, it’s easy for noise-affected groups to circulate audio and video of your activities—and reach millions.
     
  5. While maneuvering, smooth and gentle control inputs are quieter than rapid control inputs. Fly neighborly and represent your industry responsibly. One careless pilot makes us all look bad. To a noise-affected community, one unnecessarily low-flying helicopter can represent all of us. How you operate your aircraft reflects on all who fly helicopters.

The Fly Neighborly program was officially launched by HAI in February 1982 and has since gained US and international acceptance. Fly Neighborly training was developed by HAI’s Fly Neighborly / Environmental Committee (now Working Group) and provides helicopter operators with noise abatement procedures and situational awareness tools that can be used to significantly enhance operations. Fly Neighborly training is available on the FAA Safety Team website at https://go.usa.gov/xQPCW.

Read More: Onboarding the New Guy/Gal
December 10, 2019

1. DON’T rush the settling-in process. Switching jobs is stressful, especially for young employees or recent graduates; others may have moved spouses and children across the country to take the position with your organization. You don’t want your people to be distracted by these myriad administrative and personal issues, especially for flight- and ­maintenance-related positions that require a high level of attention to detail. Help your new hires settle in and then focus on the job.

2. DO make a good first impression. You only get one chance at it. The modern workforce places value on how their organization makes them feel. Quite often, this is ranked as high as compensation, and it certainly can be a factor in retention. If you value this new hire, then act like it. If you assign a mentor, make sure she or he is there when the new employee arrives. If the individual will have an assigned workspace, make sure it’s ready and supplied appropriately. Make him or her feel like a valued member of your organization, beginning on Day 1.

3. DON’T forget to include the boss. Top-tier leadership can play an important role in the onboarding process. Besides peers and first-level supervisors, new employees should also meet with your organization’s senior leaders. Through direct interaction with top management, employees immediately gain an appreciation for their value to the organization. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity for them to hear about essential topics such as your safety culture and core values. If it’s significant enough for the boss to stop in and discuss with them, it must be important.

4. DO provide opportunities for feedback. You’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your processes if you’re not asking the new guy or gal for feedback. Scheduling meetings at preset intervals provides you with an opportunity to check in and see how they’re doing. These meetings also offer a chance to evaluate the effectiveness of your onboarding program. Asking open-ended questions and being receptive to candid feedback will help you and your new hire establish a relationship of open communication.

5. DO offer follow-on training and supervision. A lot of “stuff” gets thrown at new employees when they first show up; it’s nearly impossible for them to absorb it all. A “one-and-done” style of training is insufficient, particularly for flight- or safety-critical processes. Supervisors should expect that new hires may need extra monitoring. Provide follow-on services that reinforce that initial burst of training. Most importantly, make this a positive experience. Praise new hires who seek follow-on training; their initiative and desire to get it right demonstrate their alignment with your organizational culture.

Read More: Preparing for Winter Operations
November 13, 2018

The cold temperatures that winter brings can be more than a nuisance for helicopter operations.

1. Review guidance for cold-weather operations. Most OEMs, both airframe and engine, have published guidance relating to the conduct of operations when conditions are near, at, or below freezing temperatures. The FAA has also published various guidance in the form of SAFOs, SAIBs, and other communications. Schedule some time to review these and ensure you are operating in compliance.

2. Check for moisture. A key issue affecting safety of flight is the accumulation of moisture in fuel systems, engine control systems, and almost any type of sensing system. Temperature changes can affect the amount or location of water accumulation. Does your aircraft require the use of a fuel additive such as Prist or something similar? If so, under what conditions?

3. Conduct a safety stand-down. Hold a safety stand-down to review your company’s SOPs, as well as industry best practices. Include both maintenance and operations personnel. Everyone needs to be on the safety team!

4. Learn from your mistakes. If you have any past company history relating to cold-weather operations, talk about what happened, why did it happen, and how we will avoid it happening again. We aren’t inventing new ways to have accidents, so let’s learn from our old ones.

5. Help the new guys. If you have new pilots or maintenance technicians on staff, be mindful that they may not have experience operating in your environment. Make sure they get the extra training or oversight they need. An operation where 98 percent of your colleagues know the right way to do things is not acceptable.