Helicopters Magazine

A Clear Perspective

January 25, 2011  By Matt Nicholls

Every once in a while, I come across a situation that really surprises me.

Every once in a while, I come across a situation that really surprises me.

I recently had the opportunity to fly with a Canadian operator to get a feel for its operations, marketing strategy, goals and objectives. I also wanted to discuss the company’s recent purchase of new helicopters – machines that were going to “transform the fleet.” In gathering information it was obvious all was rosy from the corporate perspective. The new machines were safer, more powerful, highly versatile. From a pilot’s perspective, however, there was a different message. “While this is a fine machine, in many ways, it’s more performance than we need. We also don’t have the proper inventory of parts, and it may prove to be too expensive in the long run.” Another colleague added, “Sometimes I wonder how decisions are made.”

Hmmm. An obvious follow-up question to both was how much input did they have during the tender process? Did they have a voice at the table? Was their experience and analysis taken into account? It turns out only one was consulted, which brings into question whether input by the end user was properly considered.

Challenges, differing perspectives, glitches – with any major equipment change they’re to be expected – and there’s of course no such thing as the perfect machine – it’s a process. But it’s surprising, even alarming, when several initial responses are outwardly negative and the input of critical team members seems to have been completely overlooked.


Ensuring the right voices are at the table before implementing change is imperative and although this example illustrates impaired vision on behalf of key decision makers at one firm, it’s worth noting another example that illustrates how one working group is methodically analyzing the needs of all parties in implementing change.

The Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) working group, under the direction of the Helicopter Association of Canada, is co-operating diligently with Transport Canada’s Stephane Demers and Rob Freeman to help set proper regulations for the use of night vision technology in Canada. Headed up by STARs pilot Bob Toews, chair of HAC’s IFR committee, the committee first met at HAC last April and is currently reviewing, among other elements, equipment systems, minimum performance specifications, operational and training standards, maintenance and new technologies.

And while the process to develop regulations in Canada is lagging behind that of other countries, those on the committee feel a careful, methodical approach with proper input from all parties, is a logical, responsible one. The committee includes a cross-section of chief pilots and management from all sectors with varying degrees of NVIS experience, offering sound perspectives from a variety of sources.

“I’m happy they are taking their time, implementing this at a proper pace,” says committee member Adam Aldous, president of Night Flight Concepts, a U.S.-based company offering NVG flight training, inspections/maintenance. “I know it can be frustrating for operators, but there are other regulatory authorities around the world such as Australia and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S.) who have published regulations in the nature of just getting those regs approved. . . .and by the admission of the FAA themselves, they made mistakes in rushing to get them approved. The intent with some of the rules when they made them was correct, but the interpretation from operators is incorrect and so that’s causing some issues.”

Major concerns from operators in the U.S., Aldous notes, include such wide-ranging areas as training, aircraft lighting configuration, crew requirements, equipment requirements and the type of NVGs crews can operate with. It reinforces the point that a careful, logical approach developed by all the right parties at the table can help ensure the right decisions are made the first time – saving time and money.

“It’s always difficult to get things changed after they’ve been approved in the first place,” Aldous adds, “so, taking your time, getting it right in the first place, it’s always the best procedure.”

Relying on expert opinions, experienced team members and not rushing into a decision based on the “proper” optics. Is there a better way to see more effectively in the dark?


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