Read More: Mentor New Hires to Teach Your Values
August 30, 2019

New hires see most Dirty Dozen problems on Day 1.

Such a bold statement for a subtitle of an article. Or is it?

The first impression when a technician is introduced to the hangar floor or work area is one of the most influential times for that new hire. Within the first few hours, he or she receives a strong impression of your organization, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, some of what they learn may not be what you planned on teaching them. The fact is, several of the Dirty Dozen human factors that lead to aviation maintenance mistakes may be present.

What might that new hire see? Fellow technicians on the floor not following procedure (norms). Confusion over a logbook entry (lack of communication). Wide­spread use of cell phones (distraction). Rushed inspections and sign-offs (complacency). And on and on.

This is not a far-fetched fairy tale that exists in a maintenance area far, far away. It is a reality that affects organizations every day, during every maintenance task and operation. We would all love to say that no Dirty Dozen factors exist in our shop, but in reality, they can show up regularly. (That’s why they’re called human factors—because as humans we are all prone to them.)

How can your organization ensure that a new technician will learn good habits? Is there a way to effectively communicate your organizational values? The solution is simple: a maintenance mentor program.

There may be a significant amount of time between hiring and indoctrination training or orientation within an organization. It is not uncommon for a new-hire technician to feel nervous, intimidated, inexperienced, lost, nonproductive, and more of a liability than an asset. He or she may become confused, surrounded by contradictions of policies versus real-world procedures. They may not stay long with you or worse, they may become the kind of employee you don’t want to keep. Eliminate this unnecessary risk by focusing on the root cause.

Providing a maintenance mentor for new hires gives that new technician an anchor, someone to turn to with questions. Choose a representative who can indoctrinate a new hire into your safety culture starting on Day 1, someone who will lead a new technician toward your organization’s ideal values, policies, and procedures.

Another advantage of a maintenance mentor is that it gives the new technician an assigned point of contact who is available for him or her during the entire shift. This dedicated one-on-one approach opens communication between the new hire and the mentor at the peer level, giving the new technician a feeling of being welcome and the ability to ask questions and get correct procedural answers. No longer feeling lost or uncertain, the technician’s confidence and trust in the organization grows. And in today’s tight labor market, increasing the retention of new employees is an added value.

The maintenance mentor communicates ideal organizational values by demonstrating the right and positive responses to Dirty Dozen situations. The mentor teaches new hires in the best way possible: by modeling desired behaviors and attitudes while tending to actual shop-floor conditions and tasks.

These practical examples endow the new technician with the capacity to assess a current task or operation and the internal compass to understand that it is not OK to submit to external or internal pressures. He or she will recognize potential risk or hazards, communicate by asking questions, and get reassurances that communication is open and received. The mentor assists the technician in mitigating risks or triggering corrective recommendations before work resumes. All this helps the organization to prevent costly mistakes, while also helping the new hire to grow and develop.

Before using maintenance mentors in your organization, make sure you structure it as a program, with clear definitions of how the mentoring is to be done, by whom, when, and using what resources. At a minimum, there should be an outlined objective for the program, providing both the mentor and new technician with a view of the path ahead. To simply assign a mentor with little guidance and no details of the expected outcome is a waste of time. Organizations should also be open to receiving feedback by mentors and mentees and using those comments to improve the program.

A maintenance mentor program is not a replacement for indoctrination or on-the-job training. But it provides organizations with another way to ensure that new hires are learning the right stuff.

Read More: Zero Accidents: Still the Goal
June 19, 2019

One accident is one too many.

The only acceptable accident rate is zero. I refuse to accept some of the counterarguments I hear, such as “accidents are a statistical certainty when humans engage in any activity, especially when machinery is involved.” Another favorite axiom recommends staying on the ground as the “only” way to avoid accidents. According to that logic, none of us should get out of bed—ever.
Some say that every time you take off, you are at risk of an accident. I prefer to say that every time you take off, you must now mitigate the risks associated with that flight. These statements may look like the same thing, but my version empowers the stakeholders to manage that risk, on our way to achieving a goal of zero accidents.
Aviation does come with inherent risk. Yet each time we drill down to the root causes of an accident, it turns out that the aircraft are generally reliable, the infrastructure is adequate, and regulations provide a good foundation of operating protocols. The dominant causal factor for more than 80% of aviation accidents is the humans involved and their poor aeronautical decision-making and risk assessment.
Another major issue is the utilization of different decision-making and risk-assessment protocols, depending on the urgency of the mission being performed. The purpose of the flight being requested should not be considered in your risk assessment for that flight. Either you can safely fly the flight, in that aircraft, in those conditions—or you can’t.
Am I flying a sick child to a hospital? Does my CEO need to get to a meeting to close a deal? Will more homes burn if I don’t take off? It doesn’t matter. Thinking about these questions may prompt you to take more risks than you normally would. Pilots should be insulated from any facts about the mission that may influence their assessment of the risks posed by the flight.
The same logic applies to general aviation (GA) flights, either business or recreation. In many GA accidents, pilots either exceed their limitations or the aircrafts’. The truly sad part is that on these flights, the pilot’s passengers are often his or her family. You would think that with the most precious people in their lives on board, pilots would be very conservative in taking risks.
The way to achieve zero accidents is to adopt a culture of putting safety first. Place the safe completion of each flight above everything else, every day, even when it is inconvenient, even when you are rushed for time, even if it means canceling the flight.
This safety philosophy starts at the top. Executive management must distribute a statement to all staff clearly expressing support for the adoption of a safety-first culture by all field personnel. Company policies and procedures must then support employees who make the tough decisions that prioritize safety above any other consideration.
Another valuable tool in your efforts to reach zero accidents is the Land & LIVE initiative ( It’s free to use. To prevent an accident, you just need to do what we do best: when flight conditions are deteriorating, fuel is low, or maintenance issues arise, land the damn helicopter!
Zero accidents is still the goal, and we will achieve this goal. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at
As always, fly safe, fly neighborly—and keep those rotors turning! 
Best Regards,

Read More: Tell Them About It
June 19, 2019

Frustrated by a Congress that doesn’t understand your issues?

Those of us who work or play in general aviation (GA) have specialized knowledge that most folks don’t possess. The average person who is not part of our world knows very little about aviation other than baggage fees, TSA lines, and which airlines serve the best snacks.
Our industry is comprised of experts working every day out in the field. You operate, fix, and fly helicopters—or you offer products and services to support those who do. If anybody understands how our industry works or how we contribute to our communities, it’s you, the person working every day to make it happen.
I spend my days working with government staffers, providing information on our industry that relates to the many policy issues our lawmakers are working on. As a resource, I am only as valuable as my information. The data and insights I provide need to be straightforward and honest. The minute you start spinning that information—shaving a little truth here, telling alternative facts there—that is when you become known as a peddler of one-sided goods that don’t stand up to scrutiny. If you want to be trusted, you must dependably provide the good with the ugly.
At times, it may appear that more words than actions roll off the Hill and that Congress is not focused on issues important to you or your community. It also may seem that our representatives don’t have all the details or have all the wrong details. While we can all tell some fun jokes at Congress’s expense, seeing our elected representatives only through that lens is shortsighted and unproductive.
Until we have a Congress drawn exclusively from the helicopter industry, our elected officials will need reliable data that tells the entire story. As the experts in that field, we need to help them understand what we do and why we do it that way.
I’m not talking about providing confidential or proprietary company data. I’m talking about sharing something even more important: your impact on your community. This includes more than your contributions to the tax base and your payroll. What about the missions you fly? How many homes did you save in the recent fire season? How many lives have you influenced for the better?
As your trade association, HAI advocates for your interests before legislators and regulators. We file comments on proposed regulations, and we regularly bring stakeholders together to craft consensus around common-sense policies that serve the greater good. But how involved are you in government and community outreach, either personally or for your company?
As you come out of winter hibernation, you may not be thinking of August just yet. But it’s right around the corner. Congress is in recess for the entire month, and all of the representatives will be back home in their districts to reconnect with constituents. Now is the perfect time to begin a relationship or strengthen an existing one. Reach out and invite your representative for a tour of your operations. (Let me know at if you do; I can share some tips to help you plan the visit.)
If you are reading ROTOR, you are probably a big fan of the helicopter industry. Don’t be afraid to share the good news about all that we do—with friends and neighbors, local schools, and your elected government officials. Don’t assume that they know your struggles and triumphs. Tell them about it! 

Read More: HAI on Social
June 19, 2019

The Bell AH-1 Cobra has been replaced by the Boeing AH-64 Apache in the US Army fleet, but the Cobra still has a lot of fans. This Facebook video showing a Cobra landing at HAI HELI-EXPO 2019 in Atlanta was viewed more than 132,000 times.

Read More: What new technological breakthrough would benefit your operations?
June 19, 2019

A deicing system for light twin helicopters with a useful weight penalty and price. It would be a revolution for HAA in parts of the world where icing is an issue.
– Erik Normann, Drøbak, Norway

Plug ’n fly electronic ignition for piston engines (We’re still using magnetos? C’mon man!)
– Dave Hynes, Hampton Roads, VA, USA

Why isn’t there a laser rangefinder that would keep you aware of obstacles? Cars have them.
– James Maxxwell, Jacksonville, FL, USA

Inexpensive radar altimeters for helicopters. Existing and certified RA technology is well over 10 years old and at least $25,000 per helicopter installed. With all the recent developments in the drone and autonomous vehicle sectors, the cost of reliable sensing that could be used for helicopter altitude sensing has plummeted to where an installed cost could be less than 1⁄10 of that price per helicopter: $2,500.
– Wesley Verkaart, Plymouth, MA, USA

Synthetic vision inspection of aircraft.
– Joel Collins, Maui, HI, USA

LED induced-voltage powered marker lights on electrical distribution power lines crossing any major highways that might be routinely used as landing zones for HAA operations.
– Rick Bartlett, Cumberland, MD, USA

Many single-engine helicopters possess avionics capable of supporting IFR flight. The FAA’s support for single-engine IFR certification would reduce the number of fatal accidents, especially due to controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).
Chris Baur, Kingwood, TX, USA

My operation could really use a patient litter for an R66.
– Mark Spangler, Glendale, AZ, USA

Affordable eye-movement tracking devices for seeing what students are doing in their scan patterns.
– Candise Tu, Carlsbad, CA, USA

Read More: HAI Provides Reporting Tool for Rotorcraft Pilots
June 19, 2019

To address a growing need for reporting airborne safety hazards, helicopter pilots now have a new website,, that allows for fast and easy reporting of near misses and other in-flight safety events.
The HAI Aviation Reporting Program (HARP) was developed by the association’s Operations Department specifically for helicopter pilots, with customized data fields for manned and unmanned rotary-wing operations. The program is accessible from any Web-enabled device.
HARP grew out of a discussion among members of the HAI Air Medical Services Committee. They felt there was not an effective system for prompt reporting of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drone) activities that could threaten the safety of helicopter air ambulance operators.
HARP users can report events in these specific reporting categories:
  • Drone/UAS event
  • Accident/serious incident
  • Near midair collision
  • Wildlife strike/activity
  • Laser event
  • Other hazards.
Clicking on one of the six categories then directs users to the proper reporting source or guides them through a menu of questions or selections related to the event, capturing date, time, location, description, and other key data.
Pilots using HARP experience the convenience of accessing several reporting systems within one portal. If another reporting system already exists for the event, such as the NTSB one for accidents and incidents or the FAA’s for laser events, HARP connects pilots to that site.
“HARP is not intended to serve as a substitute for other public reporting systems or programs,” says Chris Hill, director of safety at HAI. “We encourage pilots to continue using any effective, responsive system they prefer for reporting hazardous conditions. HARP provides a simple reporting portal that promptly guides users through the reporting steps and ensures that vital safety information is shared with stakeholder operators in the most expedient manner possible.
“HAI will handle all HARP submissions with the utmost care and respect for individual and operator privacy. We are working directly with NASA in an effort to develop strict protocols for secure processing and transfer of HARP submissions into NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS),” adds Hill.

Read More: HAI Announces New Directors, Officers
June 19, 2019

One element of the HAI HELI‑EXPO trade show is the HAI Annual Membership Meeting & Breakfast. In addition to mounds of bacon and eggs, HAI members who attend the breakfast also receive reports from the association’s leaders and hear from candidates standing for election to the HAI Board of Directors. Members may vote online before the show opens and on-site at the show.
In Atlanta, the voters selected Jeffery Smith of R.O.P. Aviation in Teterboro, New Jersey, to join the board. Smith will fill the open general aviation seat on the board, replacing current director David Bjellos, who will leave the board when his term expires at the end of June. The nine director positions on the board are allocated among various industry sectors to match the demographics of HAI operator members.
Besides serving as chief pilot for R.O.P. Aviation, Smith has worked with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council for more than 15 years, serving as chairman for five years. He is a US Army veteran and has accumulated more than 10,000 flight hours, including over 700 hours in military and commercial helicopter air ambulance missions. Smith currently serves as the chairman of the HAI Fly Neighborly Committee and has previously worked with the Helicopter Tour Operator Committee, Flight Operations Committee, and the Heliport Committee.