Call me a little odd, but unlike many, I am not one to partake in the annual revelry at my local tavern when the big red ball drops at Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve. No, I prefer a more reflective approach to the annual passing of time, which is one of the reasons why I like analyzing the top stories and/or news highlights of the previous 365 days. With that in mind, I am happy to present a few of the stories that piqued my interest in the Canadian helicopter industry over the past year. And while not everything hit a home run for industry, some of these items will no doubt be on our radar for months and years to come:
Maritime Madness – Almost Replacing the Replacement
As the year came to a close, the federal government finally made a decision on what to do to replace its aging Sea King fleet. In a relatively quiet announcement on the last day of the year, the Harper conservatives decided to follow through with recommendations made by consulting firm Hitachi Consulting to stick it out with the much-maligned Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone after major OEMs presented their best solutions for the maritime project in November. (For more on the replacement, see “The Maritime Solution, page 14). Sikorsky is woefully behind on the project and has incurred millions in late fees, which frankly, is not acceptable. Now that the political posturing has seemingly been put to rest on what may be the worst procurement in Canadian history, let’s hope this decision breathes new life into the important project.
Painting a Fresh New Ornge
Ontario’s medical transportation service, Ornge, continued to grab headlines nationwide, mostly for the wrong reasons. Tragedy struck on May 31, when one of the firm’s S-76 helicopters went down after taking off from Moosonee to pick up a patient in Attawapiskat. Pilot Don Filliter, a friend and contact of mine, first officer Jacques Dupuy, and paramedics Dustin Dagenais and Chris Snowball were all killed in the crash. Details on the cause have not been officially determined. This tragic event, coupled with ongoing reports of financial impropriety by former CEO Christopher Mazza, as well as operational concerns and other issues, casts a negative light on the organization. With such a critical service in such a vast province, it’s imperative some level of stability ensue going forward; Ontario residents deserve it.
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane . . . It’s a UAV
In an online poll at www.helicoptersmagazine.com, some 64 per cent of respondents said the implementation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will not be a boon to operators. However, the helicopter landscape could very well change in a drastic way. UAVs could be used for a number of civilian projects currently within the purview of commercial operators including surveillance, law enforcement, film work, arctic patrol, pipeline inspection, and construction. Will this spell the loss of contracts for some operators? Create opportunities for those that implement them? Mess up already crowded regulatory issues and air space? Will UAVs be buzzing around in 2014? In widespread civilian uses, no, but they are coming – and Helicopters will be watching; operators should, too.
Come Together – Right Now . . . in the Name of Safety
Industry trade shows are often a barometer of the state of the industry and the CHC Quality & Safety Summit in Vancouver last March and the Helicopter Association of Canada’s Annual Conference and Trade Show in November were strong events brimming with salient education aimed at finding solutions to make the industry stronger, more cohesive, and most importantly, safer. The CHC Safety & Quality Summit continues to be the most informative show of its kind in the industry for collaborative intelligence, while HAC’s new fall format was a hit, for suppliers and exhibitors alike (for more, see, “Realizing the Dream,” page 34.) As client demands continue to escalate, collaboration and exceeding all levels of operational integrity remain paramount.
So there you have it, a few notes and trends worth mulling over in 2014 and beyond. Here’s hoping your new year is a successful one, dominated by strong relationships with clients, united internal operational teams and open dialogues aimed at establishing new paradigms and industry best practices that continue to make the Canadian helicopter industry safe and productive!
Editorial: Pause For Reflection
Some Newsworthy Happenings From a Busy 2013
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