Safety is not a “competitive differentiator.” Helicopter operators should not trumpet that they have a better safety record than a competitor, even if they do, because safety in the public consciousness is a collective industry record. Any accident, especially a fatal accident, ripples through the reputation of every operator.
The five large global operators who created the new HeliOffshore organization – Avincis (Bond), Bristow, CHC, Era, and PHI – recognize that sharing safety best practices is good for each of them and for the industry as a whole.
HeliOffshore is an outgrowth of a joint review initiated by the “A-B-C” operators following the 2013 “CAP 1145” review of North Sea helicopter accidents between 1992 and 2013 by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Norway CAA, and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Quite simply, the experience of the joint review triggered a desire to keep talking on an ongoing basis. And not only talking, but throwing significant senior executive weight behind the group’s recommendations. “One of the things that came out very strongly was a genuine commitment from the very senior stakeholders to work on this together and to see it through,” HeliOffshore CEO Gretchen Haskins said. The chairman of the new independent organization is William Chiles, CEO emeritus of Bristow Group. Other board members include William Amelio, CHC President and CEO; James Drummond, former Group CEO of Avincis; Christopher S. Bradshaw, Era Chief Financial Officer and acting CEO; and Al A. Gonsoulin, Chairman and CEO of PHI.
Haskins says HeliOffshore’s approach will be to have “clear resource plans with milestones and deliverables.” She said there’s “a lot of great work being done in safety by people who are doing it almost over and above their day job.” But the directors have emphasized that, within their operations, “they will make improvement
activity a clearly defined part of peoples’ day jobs and put the resources to it in a very clear way so it will be something that has to be done by a specific date and time. There will be governance,” Haskins explained.
In an October workshop immediately after HeliOffshore was created, the 70 assembled stakeholders (operators, helicopter manufacturers, training organizations, regulators, pilot and passenger groups) opted to focus initially on six areas: automation, pilot monitoring, stabilized approaches, health and usage monitoring, oil and gas customer requirements, and information sharing. “The idea is to get all the stakeholders talking and working together about what are the safety priorities, what are the actions that will make a difference, how do we work together to implement them,” Haskins said.
In the area of automation, for example, the emphasis is not simply on a pilot’s understanding of cockpit automation features. HeliOffshore intends to influence automation system design and regulation, push for standardization of operating principles and consistent training, and coalesce data on failures and other feedback.
This stems from the “performance-based” trend in aviation: performance-based regulation, performance-based training, etc., which is where Haskins’ background is an excellent fit. Prior to joining HeliOffshore, she ran a consulting company called Informed Performance Ltd., based on her experience with the UK CAA, UK air navigation services provider NATS, and commercial aerospace firms such as GEC Marconi.
“The common thread in my CV is human performance. Gradually through my career, I progressed from how do you get one person to use a system to how do you get a team of people to use a system to how do you get a whole organization to work together to use the set of systems it needs, including the equipment, training, procedures, culture, data.
“If you give people the right information, training, tools, and support to do their job, and then you give them feedback on how they’re doing, they’ll make decisions that help optimize their performance.”
Membership in HeliOffshore (www.helioffshore.org), as the name implies, is open to anyone operating a helicopter in the offshore environment. “Alliance members” can be anyone who has a stake in the offshore helicopter industry.
Rick Adams is Chief Perspectives Officer of AeroPerspectives, an aviation communications consultancy based in the south of France, and is Editor of ICAO Journal. He has been writing about technology and training for 30 years.
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