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HAC 2008: SMS at the Forefront

May 27, 2008  By Ken Armstrong

The HAC convention held in Calgary this year proved to be another success despite the distraction of having the Juno Awards just next door. With over 750 registered attendees, one of the main attractractions was the Bell JetRanger displayed in the Vector Aerospace booth – the first helicopter ever to be inside the tradeshow. With a multitude of issues surrounding flight training and air taxi on the agenda, SMS remained at the forefront.

The HAC convention held in Calgary this year proved to be another success despite the distraction of having the Juno Awards just next door. With over 750 registered attendees, one of the main attractractions was the Bell JetRanger displayed in the Vector Aerospace booth – the first helicopter ever to be inside the tradeshow. With a multitude of issues surrounding flight training and air taxi on the agenda, SMS remained at the forefront.

Vector Aerospace displayed a Bell JetRanger with a Sagem glass cockpit.

Flight Training
Wayne Martin, superintendent of helicopters for Transport Canada in Ontario, stated that new helicopter pilots entering the market are lacking pilot decision-making (PDM) training as they commonly exhibit poor judgment. That got the ball rolling … Kevin Dawson of Kevin Dawson and Associates added that “bringing new pilots immediately and deeply into a company’s safety culture would overcome PDM issues associated with ‘100-hour wonders’.” Lyle Watts, CFI at Heli-College Canada Training Inc., chaired this informative discussion group and observed that some schools are only providing the basic requirements in their curriculum while others provide more operational decision-making segments. Transport Canada’s Manzur Huq observed that Threat and Error Management programs were required by ICAO and would likely become law in Canada in time. He advised attendees to visit the ICAO website for details. He also suggested that Flight Training Devices (FTDs) could be very useful in PDM training and had proven themselves commendably in fixed-wing programs.

Thinking of training for your private licence on a personal helicopter? Think again. CAR 406.03 addresses this consideration and points out that only commercial training can be done that way. Also, if 50 per cent or more of your FTD revenue is from commercial operations you must charge GST. If you don’t and the Canada Revenue Agency catches up with you, there will be significant monetary penalties under the AMPS program.


Labour code changes under OSH/WCB/TC specify new maximum duty times per week. Additionally, contract pilots who are working
regularly for a company under employee status now require regular employee deductions.

It’s noteworthy that the new language proficiency requirements are in place and this may affect some students with marginal language skills.
With SMS mandatory by September 2009, integrated FTDs will require separate SMS manuals for fixed- and rotary-wing training.

Transport Canada Aviation hopes to announce that Canadian commercial and ATR helicopter licences will be recognized in the U.S. by the end of 2008 under a reciprocal agreement. Pilots will need to take an exam and medical in the U.S. to qualify.

Serge Coté, TCA test pilot, announced new standards would be put into place regarding helicopter limitations in POHs, steep turns, confined areas and sloping ground operations. This is all part of educating pilots on threat and error training.

Manzur Huq noted the new passport-sized pilot licences would have a bar reader code for identification, medical certificate and renewal pages and flight test sign-off pages so that all documents would be encompassed into one.

More than 750 people attended this year’s HAC Convention and Trade Show, held in Calgary this past April.

Air Taxi
HAC director Steve Flynn provided a 2010 Olympics update and advised that a 30-nm ring around Whistler and Vancouver International Airport would preclude solo flights and overflights unless the aircraft had two-way communication, mandatory flight plans and a transponder. Additionally, smaller rings in those areas and the corridors between them would require pilot crews to be registered, physical inspections of aircraft, and satellite tracking equipment on board, and if the risk assessment is elevated at the time, flights might even be prohibited. Final details are to be released by the fall of 2008.

SMS Update
Transport Canada’s Danielle Rehn provided an SMS update stating the program “is a set of beliefs, practices and procedures for monitoring safety” and that it would be mandatory for all certificate holders by 2010.  She added that document TP14135 details SMS and while it is currently under revision, it can be viewed on the TC website under Civil Aviation and the SMS section. She pointed out the airline version has been in place since June 2005 and that CAR 705 sections 151 though 153 has that industry’s reference information.

Next, an open floor forum discussed pilot qualifications and one forestry official noted pilot competency often is not related to flight hours. HAC now has mountain training guidelines as approved by BCFS (B.C. Forestry Service) on the website with further dissertations on other topics to follow. A committee of three forestry managers and three operators is working to define qualifications in an attempt to improve proficiency and safety.
Hover exits are still creating problems and Bob Spraklin of Saskatchewan Forestry is putting together a committee to provide standards for training programs.

Don French, the dangerous goods guru observed that “TCA has finally realized that helicopters are not Boeing 747s” and requirements will subsequently be reduced.

Automatic Flight Following
Jeff Berry of BCFS advised that operators using Automatic Flight Following (AFF) systems will still need to follow the manda-tory 30-minute check-in transmissions. He added that an AFF going U/S during a flight does not require grounding; the operator can keep flying as long as every effort is made to fix the equipment ASAP. Some operators were concerned their tracking information would be released to competitors; however, they were advised the data is “fairly secure.” Operators who do not have AFF gear can still be hired if the fire situation is critical – but AFF is considered very desirable in the industry.

BCFS  advised of critical changes in our Bio Climatic Zones with dryer and hotter conditions prevailing. Fuels are now as dry at the start of the season as they used to be at the end. Specifically this has resulted in a 16-per-cent increase in the rate of spread of fires over the last decade.

Pilot Proficiency Checks
Pilot Proficiency Checks (PPCs) are now required every two years for 703 and 704 operators with responsibilities transferring to the companies for compliance. Approved Check Pilots (ACPs) will typically carry out these checks and a discussion ensued on how to obtain this rating. Transport will continue to do PPCs sporadically to ensure standards are being met in terms of pilot proficiency in the industry. Concerned readers can check out CAR 703.88 and the PPC exemption under 703.91 for details.

Operators are now facing new occupational health requirements and Transport recommends a visit to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website: www.ccohs.ca/ for an update.

HAC Safety Committee
The safety committee chairman, Alex Holiday of Alpine Helicopters, advised that standards for type 1 through 4 helipads were in the making and that data would soon be available on the HAC website. Insofar as transportation of dangerous goods is concerned, air ambulance was taken out of section 12 regulations so attendants no longer need to be qualified by TCA. Alex added that Transport is typically looking at the industry to provide a standard of training; HAC simply wanted to provide guidelines.
Sylvain Séguin, vice-president of safety and quality, Canadian Helicopters, stated that the goal at the IHSS 2005 symposium was to reduce the helicopter accident rate by 80 per cent by 2016. The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) was formed to lead efforts toward reaching that objective. Canada’s average of 50 accidents a year (eight accidents per 100,000 hours) represents an 8.6-per-cent accident rate and it is felt that this can be reduced by changing our safety culture so that we don’t accept the risk level, and by using accurate risk assessment tools. Personally, this scribe/pilot believes that “KISS” works too. Simply stop pushing the envelope and taking chances and fly conservatively, thereby providing the maximum safety margins lest something fails!

Small operators were encouraged to visit the IHST website, www.ihst.org,  and click on Safety Management Systems in the main menu to download the SMS Toolkit. Compiled by the Joint Helicopter Safety Implementation Team (JHSIT), the toolkit is a comprehensive tool designed to assist operators in implementing their SMS policies.

HAC Annual General Meeting
Due to litigious considerations and legal advice, the termination of previous HAC president Brian Jenner could not be discussed. Randy Simonneau, chairman of the board stated the HAC was in good shape financially with more than half a million in the contingency fund and while the directors were hectically busy filling the void, the organization was stable and productive. On that note, two new committees have been struck; 1) Oil and Gas Products and 2) Power and Utilities.

The previous convention in Vancouver was record-setting with 816 registered and this Calgary convention wasn’t far behind and boasted the first helicopter in the trade show – a JetRanger with a Sagem glass cockpit.  All seems to bode well for the continued growth and benefits provided by Canada’s helicopter association.

Reducing Down Time – The Digital Way        
By Stuart R. Watkins

In today’s competitive business world, controlling (or more accurately, reducing) costs is the name of the game. Combine that with customer pressure for better safety and pilot desire for less work and more efficient flying, and the answer spells “digital integrated cockpit display systems.”

George Kelham, owner/operator of Slave Lake Helicopters in Slave Lake, Alta., is the first Canadian customer of Sagem Avionics to install its cockpit display system in a Bell JetRanger, and the second in Canada for an AStar installation. “I have a relatively new fleet,” says Kelham, “and I wanted to have the best in modern equipment. I lose the equivalent of about a week a year in downtime because of instrument failure, as parts can take several days to arrive. The Sagem system eliminates that costly downtime.”

The heart of the system is an integrated computer, says Dan Johnson, vice-president of helicopter sales and marketing at Sagem. “For example, pitot tube information is fed to the computer where it is converted from analog to digital information. The information is then displayed on a LCD screen on the cockpit dash, replacing all but two analog instruments. (Transport Canada and the FAA still require an airspeed indicator and altimeter in the machine as a backup system.)

Using two screens, the Sagem system incorporates:
1) all flight instruments, displayed either landscape or portrait orientation
2) integrated moving map displays
3) GPS and/or NAV inputs
4) forward-looking terrain awareness
5) engine and rotor monitoring
6) aircraft traffic warnings
7) weather data tracking

Instead of the standard pilot “instrument scans,” at a finger touch all the
display controls are condensed in a smaller space instead of a three-foot dash and are easier to read and analyze. This reduces pilot workload because of the enhanced visibility and availability of the information. Additionally, the Sagem system provides enhanced cues for caution/exceedance warnings with red and yellow “flags” displayed on the screens as well as audible warnings. Another added benefit – the system weighs 25 pounds less than a standard dash.

Kelham, whose business includes oil and gas and forestry flying, reports that his customers appreciate his desire to keep his fleet modern and to provide the best in safety measures, including satellite GPS. He intends to retrofit one helicopter per year. “I am completely sold on the Sagem system as well as the service I have received,” he says.

Sagem Avionics Inc., based in Grand Prairie, Texas, can retrofit Eurocopter, Bell, Robinson and Sikorsky helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft as well.

Pictured: The Sagem system reduces pilot workload through enhanced visibility and availability of information. An added benefit is that it weighs 25 pounds less than a standard dash.


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