Read More: Hope You Like Our New Look
November 13, 2018

The mission of HAI is to help you keep the rotors turning. My fellow staff members and I come to work each day to make that happen. One way we do this is to produce a robust HAI communications program that informs, entertains, connects, and promotes the international civil helicopter community. This is why we produce ROTOR, ROTOR Daily, and the HAI website—and why we have instituted major changes in each.

As you read this issue of ROTOR, you may have noticed its new design. But the changes are more than skin deep. In addition to choosing new paper, fonts, and logo, we have made a concerted effort to bring you more stories “from the field,” where the skids break ground contact and the rotors are turning.

At the same time, we have updated our website,, with advanced technology and a fresh new look. We want to provide you, our member or customer, with the most current, relevant information that will assist you in your day-to-day activities. We also wanted to create a website that you could navigate easily and find what you’re looking for. If you haven’t done so in a while, visit I think you’ll be pleased.

Another of our publications is our daily e-newsletter, ROTOR Daily. This round-up of all of the day’s news for the international helicopter community is valuable reading for those in the vertical-lift business. You’ll also learn what HAI is doing to support our members and the industry. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend that you subscribe, for free, to ROTOR Daily so you stay abreast of news that can affect you. Visit to sign up.

Underpinning these recent changes is HAI’s new association management system. This complex software allows us to run many different processes, but it works best when the end user or customer (that’s you) never gives it a thought. While the upgrades to our database and related systems are important to us, it is mission critical that they provide you with the tools to easily manage your HAI membership, update your subscriptions, obtain safety information, register for HAI HELI-EXPO, or conduct any other business with HAI. This system also provides members with the opportunity to update their membership record to include every employee, so they too can access HAI publications, resources, and other benefits. 

Now that we’ve upgraded the technology that connects us to you, we want to stay in touch. We want to hear from you, our members and customers. This interaction should be a two-way street, and I’d like HAI to do more listening. You don’t exist for us; we exist for you, to enhance your ability to operate safely, efficiently, and as part of an economically sustainable industry.

Our effectiveness when we advocate on your behalf is enhanced when you share what’s happening in your operating environment. When you call about an issue with crash-resistant fuel tanks or want to recognize an extraordinary colleague with a Salute to Excellence nomination, we learn about conditions in the field. And if it’s important to you, then it’s important to us.

I hope you find the changes we have made beneficial and relevant to your operations. I would sincerely appreciate it if you would let me know what you think of them—either way, positive or negative. Are we moving in the right direction to better serve your needs? Do you have any suggestions that would add further value for you?

Send me your thoughts about our new look or anything else that’s on your mind. Let me know at As always, fly safe, fly neighborly—and keep those rotors turning!

Best Regards,


Read More: The Win-Win of a CASS Program
November 13, 2018

Evaluating your maintenance performance leads to safer, more efficient operations.

As stated in 14 CFR 135.431, Part 135 operators who operate aircraft with at least 10 passenger seats are required to set up and maintain Continuing Analysis and Surveillance (CASS) programs. The CASS program ensures the overall effectiveness of an operator’s inspection and maintenance activities by collecting data on their performance and analyzing and correcting deficiencies. It will also help operators to identify hazards and to structure control measures to minimize risks, thereby increasing the safety of their operations.

Your CASS program should contain the following elements to ensure that your maintenance activities are carried out effectively and in full regulatory compliance:

  • Gather the data necessary to evaluate the performance of your maintenance activities
  • Identify deficiencies and positive or negative trends
  • Facilitate in making appropriate revisions and modifications when necessary.

Inputs into a CASS program generally come from two sources: performance information from aircraft and engines, and the results of a systematic audit of maintenance activities.

Performance Analysis

Data sources for this part may include inspection forms, minimum equipment list items, pilot reports, scheduled and unscheduled component removals, service difficulty reports, engine performance data, and reports from flight-data monitoring or health and usage monitoring systems.

Problems that affect or could affect airworthiness or the safety of passengers and crew must be given top priority and the root cause determined and corrected ASAP. Put a system in place so that urgent issues are reported to the appropriate levels of management in a timely manner, and make sure everyone understands when it is appropriate to use the emergency response channel for their reports.

Nonemergency items that affect safety can be sorted into those that require short-term or long-term monitoring. They will also need to be prioritized according to their severity and likelihood, and analyzed for subsequent corrective action. Problems not related to safety can be prioritized according to scope, financial impact, convenience, or accepted as part of the cost of operation with no corrective action required.

Audit Function

The audit function needs to include at least the following areas: removed component condition/evaluation and follow-up, review of the administrative and supervisory aspects of the maintenance program (both internal and vendor), and ensuring regulatory and policy compliance.

It has been estimated that in 65 to 70 percent of all maintenance-related incidents and accidents, failure to follow approved policies and procedures was a major contributing factor. In addition to the potential for a serious accident to occur, failure to comply with appropriate documentation frequently places the operator and maintenance personnel in a position of regulatory noncompliance and all of the associated problems that come with it.

A good audit program is one that is structured to provide a continuous audit of the maintenance system to ensure that everyone, at all levels, who is connected with the system are in compliance with:

  • All applicable government regulations
  • OEM policies, procedures, and maintenance instructions
  • Your customers’ required or recommended policies and procedures
  • Your own company’s policies and procedures
  • Industry standards.

As the Part 135 operator, you are responsible for ensuring that all external suppliers and vendors also are in compliance with all applicable government regulations. This means that your outside suppliers and vendors must be included in your audit program, as you need to gather the relevant information that substantiates their compliance.

The audit program should ensure that:

  • All technical data are current and readily available to the user
  • All maintenance is performed in accordance with the methods, standards, and techniques specified in the appropriate technical data
  • All maintenance documentation, such as inspection forms, work orders, and so on, are regularly reviewed for completeness, accuracy, and proper entries
  • All airworthiness releases are properly executed by the appropriate individuals
  • All carry-over/deferred maintenance items are properly handled
  • The receiving department identifies and inspects parts and materials in accordance with regulations and best practices
  • All shelf-life items are properly controlled
  • Procedures for the calibration and control of tools and equipment are in place and being followed
  • Housekeeping requirements are being met to ensure a safe working place.

While you may not be required to run a CASS program, there can be significant benefit for operators who use 14 CFR Part 135, Subpart J, Mainte­nance, Preventive Maintenance, and Alterations, as a template for developing their own maintenance quality assurance program.  

Read More: Happy 70th Anniversary!
November 13, 2018

On December 13, 1948, just under three years after the first helicopter was certificated for civilian use in the United States, 15 men and one woman gathered in Burbank, California, at the offices of AF Helicopters. This group of risk-taking entrepreneurs who had invested in the potential of a brand-new aviation technology formed the Helicopter Council—a group that is today known as Helicopter Association International (HAI).

The purpose of the Helicopter Council, in part, was “promoting the interests of helicopter operators, for mutual cooperation and aid.” Since that momentous meeting, our organization has gone through a series of name changes. However, HAI’s current mission still remains fixed on our members: “To provide its members with services that directly benefit their operations, and to advance the international helicopter community by providing programs that enhance safety, encourage professionalism and economic viability while promoting the unique contributions vertical flight offers society.”

Today, HAI continues to promote the helicopter industry and safe flight, supported by a nine-member Board of Directors elected from member companies. Also assisting the association are 13 committees made up of volunteers who come together to address current problems and issues affecting our industry. HAI HELI-EXPO® remains the largest helicopter trade show and exposition in the world, attended by thousands of exhibitors and attendees every year.

Starting with a single person in the 1960s, HAI’s staff today includes more than 40 people dedicated to assisting our members in promoting the safety, efficiency, and profitability of helicopter operations around the world. HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro, a 50-year veteran pilot and aviation executive, and a former chairman of the association, has led HAI since 2005.

Read More: Chris Hill Named HAI Director of Safety
November 13, 2018

HAI is pleased to announce the hiring of Chris Hill as director of safety. In this position, Chris is responsible for managing the association’s existing aviation safety programs and for developing new safety initiatives to benefit HAI’s membership and the international helicopter community.

“We are grateful to find someone of Chris’s caliber to fill our director of safety position,” says HAI president and CEO Matthew Zuccaro. “I’m looking forward to working with Chris to confront the safety issues affecting our industry.”

Chris comes to HAI with more than 32 years of rotary-wing and operational aviation safety experience. After serving as a helicopter pilot in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris served in numerous roles supporting Coast Guard aviation safety, operations, logistics, and acquisitions. He also has extensive commercial offshore experience operating from multiple platform and vessel types in the Gulf of Mexico.

For the past five years, Chris served at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the service’s civilian aviation safety manager. He served as a safety officer, flight standardization officer, and instructor pilot in three operational assignments. He has an ATP helicopter rating with more than 5,000 flight hours in 12 commercial and military rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft.

“I am honored to be a part of the HAI team, working with our members, operators, and safety professionals around the world,” says Chris. “As the director of safety, my primary focus will be to help enhance and integrate safety cultures and leading practices that can benefit all industry stakeholders.

“I will be serving as the staff liaison for the Safety and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Committees,” Chris continues. “As we work together to continue improving our safety programs and services, I really look forward to getting creative ideas and constructive feedback from our industry committees, members, and others to ensure that we continue to address the highest priority safety issues and concerns.”

A native of California and Texas, he graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a bachelor’s in professional aeronautics in 1989 and a master’s in aeronautical science in 1998.

Chris is married and has a son and two daughters. His wife, Allison, is a manager at VectorCSP, based in Elizabeth City, North Carolina; Colten is an account manager at Metropolitan Press in Dallas; Naomi attends Chapman University in Orange, California; and Sophia attends Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia.

Read More: What is the greatest threat to the helicopter industry?
November 13, 2018

Competition for qualified helicopter aviation professionals, combined with a decreasing pool of new entries into the professions, is driving up personnel costs. The experience shortage will impact safety when “old hands” are no longer available to instruct and train students. This trend will eventually make rotary-wing services economically unsupportable when compared to autonomous vehicles and alternate transportation services.

Rick Kenin
Chief Operating Officer–Transport
Boston MedFlight

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.

Read More: Tom Prevot of Uber Elevate
November 13, 2018

Tom Prevot of Uber Elevate talks about his company’s ambitious plans to reconfigure urban air traffic.

Uber Elevate is developing a vertical-lift low-altitude passenger shuttle system that it hopes will do in the air what its popular shared-ride service, Uber, has done on the ground in cities around the world. It’s aiming for a 2023 launch in two U.S. metro areas (Los Angeles and Dallas–Fort Worth) and one yet-to-be-named international city. But a lot has to happen first. So ROTOR asked Dr. Tom Prevot, director of engineering/airspace systems for Uber Elevate, about the, um “road” ahead.

What are biggest challenges that must be overcome for Elevate to hit its target launch date of 2023?

Prevot: We are creating an all-electric transportation system, so rapid advancement of battery technology—which is making great strides already—is critical.

Another is airspace integration. What will it take to make sure these aircraft can operate safely in the low-altitude airspace over cities that over time will become full of such vehicles?

And the third is public acceptance, which will very much be tied to the noise issue and also to people accepting these airplanes flying relatively low over people’s heads, even if they do so very quietly.

What about the partners you’ll need to finance, build, and operate this system?

We believe this is kind of the next “Big Thing,” if you’ll allow me to use that term: a new mode of transportation that presents different options to the congestion on the streets in big cities. There’s lots of growth and profit potential for our partners operating these aircraft or building and operating the infrastructure. We’ve already got five well-respected partners who want very much to be a part of this future: Bell, Embraer, Pipistrel, Aurora, and Karem.

How do you plan to guarantee the safety of the system?

We envision there eventually being many thousands of eVTOL [electric vertical take-off and landing] aircraft in the system. The existing traffic management system can’t handle that for a lot of technical reasons. And a single controller today can safely handle only about 18 aircraft at once.

You can’t just keep on adding more controllers because the existing system is not designed to grow that way. So we are looking at new ways of managing this low-altitude urban air traffic that would be much more reliable than the existing technology that was created in the ’50s and ’60s.

How far along is the FAA and industry in creating such a control and licensing regime?

Even within the current situation, we could operate by 2023 using a human pilot and in visual flight rule conditions. Longer term, we see this system migrating to unmanned flight operations. But we don’t really require any rule changes to start operating in 2023.

How much will you charge for a ride?

When we start operating, we think we can operate at sort of a comparable price to our BLACK (luxury car) service. Very quickly thereafter, we think we can get the price down to something comparable to Uber X. We also believe the batteries are something that over time the price point will come down on.

Eventually we think we’ll be able to offer an economy (Elevate) service, certainly below what the price of a helicopter ride is today, and comparable to the cost of owning and operating a car. We are talking about eventually getting the cost of this transportation down to less than a dollar per mile.

Read More: Accident Recovery: Direct-to Disaster
August 08, 2018

After an accident, it’s usually clear that someone made a mistake ... often more than one “someone.” The official investigation, reconstruction, and analysis by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is less concerned with apportioning blame than identifying those points at which different decisions might have interrupted the resulting sequence of events. Even so, experts can and do draw different conclusions about the relative importance of actions taken by the drama’s various actors.

The October 15, 2008, destruction of a Bell 222 air ambulance was notable in several respects. Its collision with a brightly lit radio tower on a clear night appears to be an early example of the dangers of substituting GPS-direct navigation for systematic flight planning. The accident led the then–vice chairman of the NTSB to issue a rare written dissent from the agency’s finding of probable cause. And the deaths of the pilot, flight nurse, paramedic, and 14-month-old patient intensified public scrutiny of the hazards of helicopter air ambulance (HAA) operations, especially in low visibility or at night.

The Flight

At 9:12 p.m., the Valley West Hospital in Sandwich, Illinois, requested a helicopter transport. The call was relayed through the dispatch center operated by Reach Air Medical Services in Santa Rosa, California. Reach’s local operator, Air Angels, Inc., accepted the flight immediately. However, departure was delayed by difficulties in determining which hospital could take the patient. The ship lifted off from the Air Angels base at Clow International Airport in Bolingbrook at 10:54 p.m., arriving at the Valley West helipad at 11:11.

At 11:38, prior to departing Valley West, the pilot called Reach Air Medical Services dispatch with the information required by company protocol, including the helicopter’s takeoff weight and center of gravity, an initial heading of 080 degrees, and an estimated flight time of 18 minutes for the 38-mile trip to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Fuel supply was given as 1.5 hours. The exact time of liftoff was not reported but appears to have been about 11:49 p.m.

At 11:55, the pilot contacted DuPage Airport (KDPA), a Class D field with a 24-hour tower underlying the outer ring of Chicago O’Hare’s Class B complex. He gave his position as “over Aurora” at an altitude of 1,400 feet mean sea level (msl), or about 640 feet above the ground, and requested transit through KDPA’s airspace. The controller granted clearance but, because the flight was operating under visual flight rules (VFR), did not provide course guidance or obstacle warnings.

Radar track data showed the helicopter maintaining a straight-line course on a magnetic heading of 072 degrees, the direct route from West Valley to Children’s Memorial, at a constant altitude of 1,300 feet msl. The track ended abruptly at 11:58:25 p.m. at the site of a 734-foot radio tower. First responders found that the helicopter had struck the west side of the aerial about 50 feet below its top, crashed into a field, and caught fire.

Skies were clear, and the DuPage and Aurora airports reported 9 to 10 miles visibility. Surveillance footage showed that the tower’s two sets of high-intensity strobe lights were working before the collision.

Equipment, Personnel, and Procedures

Two months after Air Angels acquired the Bell 222 in 1999, they fitted it with a Garmin GNS 430 combination GPS and nav/comm radio. The unit had received a software update in January 2008, and its Jeppesen aviation database was last updated on June 1 of that year. The GPS was not certified for use under instrument flight rules (IFR). While its database included terrain and obstacle information, the software to display this had never been installed. Air Angels’ director of flight operations (DFO) confirmed that their pilots relied on the 430 as their primary navigation source.

The helicopter was also equipped with an autopilot capable of holding headings and altitudes. Typical practice was to fly at 1,500 feet msl in the daytime and 1,500 to 1,700 feet at night, 700 to 900 feet above typical terrain elevations in the Chicago area, at 125 to 130 knots. The DFO recalled that the accident pilot’s most recent line check had been interrupted by a patient call, which he’d handled according to the company’s operations manual. He’d used the autopilot during the en route portion of the flight.

The 69-year-old pilot had flown helicopters in Vietnam. According to his ex-wife, he’d been shot down seven times, and as a result, “most situations did not cause him much stress.” After leaving active duty, he’d continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve but apparently in a nonflying capacity.

His civilian career as a professional pilot had begun in 2004. He held a commercial certificate with an instrument-helicopter rating and private pilot privileges for single-engine airplanes, and had renewed his second-class medical certificate the previous January. Nearly 3,200 of his 3,565 hours of total flight time were in helicopters. The DFO, a former U.S. Army OH-58 pilot, described him as “very reliable and conscientious” and said he “flew his landing approaches in a slow and meticulous manner.”

The NTSB’s factual report lays considerable stress on the fact that the aircraft did not have a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS). Two and a half years earlier, the Board had recommended that the FAA require all HAA operators to outfit their aircraft with TAWS; the FAA initially responded by emphasizing preflight planning but also developed technical specifications for helicopter TAWS systems. 14 CFR 135.605, requiring installation and training in the use of approved TAWS equipment by all HAA operators, eventually took effect on April 24, 2017.

However, the report also acknowledges that the radio tower “was depicted on the Chicago Aeronautical Sectional Chart, the Chicago Visual Flight Rules Terminal Area Chart, the Chicago Helicopter Route Chart, and as an obstruction on the air traffic controller’s radar display.” It was widely known as the tallest structure in the vicinity of Air Angels’ base. As noted earlier, there was no apparent impediment to seeing its two sets of high-intensity strobes.

ATC’s Responsibility

Radar coverage in the KDPA tower was provided by live feeds from O’Hare’s approach surveillance radar, which depicts the radio tower. The accident flight’s track, cited earlier, showed it flying directly toward that tower, whose location and height were also on the list of local landmarks and hazards that KDPA controllers were required to memorize during training.

The NTSB’s finding of probable cause included “the … controller’s failure to issue a safety alert” as a contributing factor. It cited paragraph 2-1-6 of FAA Order 7110.65, which requires ATC to “issue a safety alert to an aircraft if you are aware the aircraft is in a position/altitude which, in your judgment, places it in unsafe proximity to terrain, obstructions, or other aircraft.” The order also acknowledges that “it is virtually impossible to develop a standard list of duty priorities that would apply uniformly to every conceivable situation.”

A contrarian viewpoint might note the pilot’s clear interest in avoiding a well-lighted hazard that was shown on all relevant aviation charts and was also familiar to him from more than two years of low-altitude HAA flights in that area.


Though we’ll never be certain why this accident happened, one possible clue emerged from the investigators’ interviews with the Air Angels’ DFO. He described the helipad at Children’s Memorial as “not optimal” thanks to a tall steeple near its northeast corner and an elevator shaft on its north side. The pad itself is 13 stories up and so small that a helicopter as big as the Bell 222 must perch with its tail boom hanging over the edge. The pilot wasn’t familiar with the site, and during an interview with the NTSB, the DFO speculated that “at some point” he would have looked it up in the Illinois Hospital Heliport Directory.

“When the pilot would have done this, [the DFO] could not guess. It could have been at the hospital pad at Valley West … or while en route to Children’s [emphasis added]. However, it would be a likely thing for the pilot to do, especially since this was an unfamiliar helo pad for him. The directory is 139 pages, and could take a little time to find the correct page.”

Might the pilot have engaged the autopilot long enough for a quick review of the landing site in the heliport directory? It’s certainly not impossible — and could explain why he was seemingly heads-down during a VFR flight at night.

Differing Opinions

NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart, himself a pilot and former FAA safety official, vigorously disagreed with the majority’s finding that “the controller’s failure to issue a safety alert as required” contributed to the accident. His three-page written dissent stressed that “for VFR pilots, seeing and avoiding obstacles is solely and exclusively the responsibility of the pilot in command … with no exceptions.” Hart also noted internal ambiguities that made the cited FAA order “not particularly compelling in this instance.”

Greater pilot complacency and reduced willingness of controllers to provide services to VFR traffic could also be unintended consequences of any suggestion that controllers share responsibility for obstacle clearance under visual flight rules.

The Takeaway

From the original gyroscopic attitude instruments through GPS, the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), and ADS-B, technological advances have improved safety while expanding capabilities … but they have also created new failure modes, both human and mechanical. Autopilots make single-pilot IFR possible in helicopters but with the attendant risks of misprogramming, instrument or processor malfunction, or simple inattention. The incredible precision of GPS navigation raises concerns about increased collision risk, especially over busy waypoints.

No one has more at stake in managing these trade-offs than pilots, who are the first to pay the price for any errors, whether their own or someone else’s. They — and their employers — might benefit from healthy skepticism about the safeguards they think they’ve bought. 

Read More: Visit the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center
August 08, 2018

A visit to the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center (AHMEC) is a voyage back to a time when helicopter pioneers bravely tested the possibilities and limits of these machines. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the museum is a fitting attraction for an area considered by many to be the one of the incubators of rotary-wing aviation in the United States (see the end of this article to see a list of early rotary-wing pioneers in the greater Philadelphia area).

From Idea to Reality

The AHMEC began as a simple wish: to commemorate the innovation and hard work of aviation pioneers from Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley. In 1993, as the American Helicopter Society’s Philadelphia chapter celebrated its 50th anniversary, it charged a committee with establishing a lasting tribute to the local men and women who pioneered the development of rotary-wing aircraft. Many ideas were considered, such as a memorial or historical walk.

The committee decided to open a helicopter museum. Their decision was fueled in part by a pledge by Peter Wright, Sr., president of Keystone Helicopters, to donate three vintage aircraft to the fledgling museum. A major figure in the development of the commercial helicopter industry (and veteran of the storied Flying Tigers, a group of US pilots who volunteered to fly for China against Japanese forces in World War II), Wright was instrumental in establishing the museum.

On October 25, 1993, the AHMEC was incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Work began under Wright’s leadership, who took on the role of chairman of the board, and a dedicated team of volunteers. The initial goals of the museum were to: preserve the heritage of rotary-wing flight, halt the loss of artifacts significant to its founding and development, and recognize its contributions to society.

After an extensive search for the right location, the fledgling museum’s board rented an 18,000-square-foot vacant hangar at the Brandywine Airport (KOQN) in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The hangar had previously been a production facility for Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB) helicopters. Educators and volunteers developed the initial exhibit content and renovated parts of the hangar to create a museum space.

Additional financial support from individuals and corporations helped make the idea a reality. Membership grew to 800 founding members, and in just three years, on October 18, 1996, the AHMEC opened to the public.

In 2003, Frank Robinson, founder and president of Robinson Helicopters, made a generous contribution of $1 million to the museum, enabling the acquisition of the Brandywine facility as its permanent home.

Read More: HAI Aids HEC Operators with FAA Exemptions
August 08, 2018

Following a months-long grounding of US-based human external cargo (HEC) helicopter operations because of certification issues, the first helicopter operator has received its FAA-approved exemption and will be able to resume operations shortly.

Due in part to efforts by HAI staff members, the FAA approved the exemption for Haverfield Aviation on July 13. The Pennsylvania-based company expects to resume HEC flight operations as soon as the appropriate changes are incorporated into its Part 133 Rotorcraft Load Combination Flight Manual and approved by its flight standards district office.

“HAI worked tirelessly on behalf of Haverfield Aviation to ensure the HEC exemption process was moving through the complex system of the FAA,” says Brian Parker, president and CEO of Haverfield. “Chris Martino and Harold Summers [respectively, HAI’s VP of flight operations and its director of flight operations and technical services] were always available and kept Haverfield Aviation promptly updated. HAI certainly contributed to the successful approval of the waiver. Haverfield and its customers that rely on HEC are greatly appreciative of HAI’s assistance.”

The issue came to light earlier this year, when operators learned that the FAA was increasing its focus on compliance with the HEC requirements of 14 CFR Part 27 or 29. The agency had determined that the cargo hooks used for HEC operations were not certified for that use. The hooks, which have been used for decades in HEC operations, have never been implicated in any accident or incident.

Later in the spring, the FAA then requested all operators halt HEC operations until the companies complied or had received an exemption pending certification. The grounding affected operators using MD 500/Hughes 369 helicopters.

Haverfield’s exemption requires them to use an emergency anchor, or belly band, as a secondary safety device in case the cargo hook fails. The exemption also requires the operator to provide training on the use of the emergency anchor and to follow other best practices for HEC operations.

HAI became involved after being contacted by several member companies that had halted their HEC work at the request of the FAA. HAI began working to help resolve the issue while also calling for the operators to work sensibly and safely while waiting for the exemption process to proceed.

Haverfield joined 18 other operators in applying for an exemption. HAI stepped in as a neutral third party between the FAA and the operators, helping to facilitate discussion, address issues, and assist in resolving specific issues, including proper wording on applications for exemption. HAI also served as a central point of contact for the FAA and the operators.

“We served as a liaison, connecting the operators with the FAA. We understood that these companies needed to get back to work, but we also appreciate that we needed to find a solution that would keep everyone in compliance with FAA regs,” says Harold Summers. “We coordinated the communication between the industry and the FAA on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis to speed up and streamline the process.”

While several of the affected companies submitted requests for exemption, the FAA selected one application — Haverfield’s — that came closest to being complete. “Now that it’s approved, it will serve as a template for the other operators to use for their applications,” adds Summers. By modeling their exemption applications on Haverfield’s, other operators can receive summary approval by the FAA.

Founded in 1981 and an HAI Regular Member since 1994, Haverfield Aviation is a provider of aerial power line inspection, maintenance, repair, and construction support services for the North American electric utility industry.