Competitors share data to target improved safety.
Gretchen Haskins knows best safety practices when she sees them. The CEO of HeliOffshore Ltd. in London, UK, is an aviation industry leader in safety performance improvement and an internationally recognized expert in human factors. She has served on the board of the UK Civil Aviation Authority as group director of safety, guiding aviation safety in the United Kingdom, including airlines, aerodromes, air traffic, airworthiness, and personnel. Haskins’s aviation background includes having flown jet and piston aircraft in the US Air Force.
Haskins has led HeliOffshore since its founding in 2014 by five major helicopter operators. The organization now has 118 members that work collaboratively to improve offshore helicopter safety around the world.
ROTOR MAGAZINE: HeliOffshore is known for its dedication to global offshore helicopter safety. Your organization has become an example of companies—competitors—coming together to cooperate on safety issues. How hard has it been to create the necessary trust and cooperation around the idea of managing safety issues as an industrywide cooperative endeavor?
HASKINS: We were fortunate right from the start to get the CEOs of five major helicopter operators to come together and say, effectively, “We’re not going to compete on safety.” Thanks to that early, strong support for the concept, HeliOffshore has been able to create almost a safety management system for the entire industry, not just individual companies.
We started our work based on one primary question: “How would you form a collaboration to ensure that NO lives will be lost in helicopters, or certainly in offshore helicopter operations?”
It’s not a question of how this or that operator eliminates deaths in offshore operations but how the entire group does so.
ROTOR: But that sounds easier said than done.
HASKINS: Right. Well, we had to get our arms around what the broad threats facing the industry are, not just the threats individual operators see, because none of the individual operators are big enough, really, to have large enough data sets to allow them to see the full picture.
But we had a good example to follow from the fixed-wing world, which has several organizations, like the Flight Safety Foundation, ICAO, and the various airline trade groups, which all use broad data from across the industry to detect trends that may not be—and probably aren’t—visible at the single-operator level. So we borrowed from those established approaches. That had never really be done in the vertical flight world.
ROTOR: Any examples from the fixed-wing world that were especially helpful?
HASKINS: The FAA, with its CAST [Commercial Aviation Safety Team] program, set a goal years ago of reducing fatalities among US airlines by 80%, and they achieved that goal. They did it through collaboration, data sharing, and really getting the whole supply chain—from little parts suppliers to big component manufacturers to the aircraft makers, plus the FAA and other national and regional regulators—involved in sharing all their data. For the first time, we could do a good analysis of a data set large enough to detect trends that might not be noticeable by, or understandable to, one operator analyzing just their own data.