As Industry Gathers in London, Texas Summits Lay Down Challenge

As Industry Gathers in London, Texas Summits Lay Down Challenge


Many in the global helicopter industry will gather in London next week for the 31st Helitech International show.

Discussions among the exhibits at the ExCeL center there, and in sessions of the event’s associated seminars, will focus on big issues facing the industry, including improving flight safety and technological innovations supporting improvements in that area as well as in operational efficiency.

Two recent events in Texas helped lay the foundation for such ongoing discussions. Rotor & Wing International’s Rotorcraft Business & Technology Summit, Sept. 20 and 21 in Fort Worth, delved into FAA organisational changes designed to help streamline more effective management of safety risks and technological advances (such as flight data management and predictive analytics) that can better enable safety and operational gains.

This month CHC Helicopter hosted its revived Safety & Quality Summit in Grapevine, Texas, just north of DFW International Airport, during which operational and safety experts from around the world delved into those and related topics. What had been an annual event (and one of the world’s foremost aviation safety forums) was interrupted last year by CHC’s U.S. bankruptcy case, from which it emerged as a reorganised company earlier this year.

CHC also is dealing with the aftermath of two fatal accidents in the past 17 months: the April 2016 crash of a CHC Helikopter Airbus Helicopters EC225LP in Norway that killed all 13 on board; and the crash this March of a Sikorsky S-92 flown for the Irish Coast Guard, which killed a crew of four.

In opening that event, CHC President and CEO Karl Fessenden noted the challenge facing his company, as well as the industry.

“We must be smarter about assessing, combatting and mitigating risk as a matter of sound business judgment,” he said.

“We have a moral duty to exceed minimum requirements,” Fessenden added, “to reach beyond what might be termed as the ‘good enough’ approach to safety management. I submit, and history recent and past, shows that many times, ‘good enough’ is simply not ‘good enough.’”

He also asserted that the company and the industry are committed to meeting that challenge.

Since CHC’s last summit in March 2015, “we’ve endured a lot of heartache and continue to undergo and see change in the way we collaborate on safety in our industry,” Fessenden said.

“One thing, though, has not changed,” he went on. “We, individually and collectively, are as passionate as ever about safety.”

CHC relocated the summit this year from its traditional site in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Grapevine, near the company’s global headquarters in Irving, Texas. Fessenden said the change opened up “an extensive hub of aviation expertise including fixed-wing operators, aircraft manufacturers and aviation colleges.”

He noted that “our world, the aviation world, is a complex one. … Our day-to-day operations present a perpetual barrage of complex scenarios that demand hazard identification and risk assessment and mitigation.”

To manage and mitigate those hazards, he said, operators need means of monitoring and measuring compliance with organisational expectations “so that those with accountability for safety can be confident that the risk is truly being managed.”

“Without compliance monitoring, it is impossible to get a true feel for what really happens on an average day,” he added. “Ongoing data collection and analysis are key to proactively identifying and mitigating risks.”

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by James T. McKenna

James T. McKenna is the editor-in-chief of Rotor & Wing International and Avionics.

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