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Aviation Safety

takes to the road


February 3, 2017: Safety seminars and workshops are becoming a tool for addressing safety issues in aviation. Airbus' helicopter division has taken the concept further; over the past year, the manufacturer’s “safety roadshows” have drawn on the resources of its locally-placed customer centres to reach operators one by one, on their home turf. The results have engendered change within the safety management systems of operators. Further, an improved safety culture has emerged thanks to a different dialogue between employees within the same company. Feedback from participants has shown signs of a growing awareness of the need for greater proficiency.

Pictured below: The kickoff event for the Airbus Helicopters aviation safety roadshow held in Beijing, China in 2015.

Through the efforts of its safety network, Airbus’ helicopter division has become a leader among helicopter manufacturers in helping to create a culture of openness around aviation safety. Thanks to the introduction of aviation safety officers placed within each of the company’s worldwide customer centres, Airbus is in a position to bring a variety of safety resources to its customers, among them the work of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST).

In 2016, Airbus held helicopter safety roadshows on nearly every continent, from Mexico, Brazil, and Chile to the United States, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, India, China, and Indonesia, among others. Response has been positive, ensuring an encore into 2017.

Creating a new dynamic among the main safety actors

The idea of the roadshows was to put a customer’s principal actors, including members of their top management, together in one room with that country’s national aviation authority and with Airbus.

“When we start the process for a country, we first visit their national aviation authority,” says Gilles Bruniaux, Vice President of Aviation Safety at Airbus Helicopters. “We tell them we’re reaching out to operators to present tools and improvements and we’d like that authority to sit on our side of the table.” In doing so, the event becomes an opportunity to establish a new dynamic among various parties.

After more than a year of planning, this vision took off in 2015. The concept was developed in Mexico first. The pilot phase demonstrated a significant decrease in Mexican customers’ accident rates in correlation to roadshow events.

“All of these people who are participating work for safe and productive aviation, so the dialogue between them makes aviation an increasingly safe activity.”

Luiz Sergio Alves Pinto

Captain of the Rio de Janeiro State Military Police

The global roll out followed with kick-off events in Russia and China at the end of 2015. A senior aviation safety expert, Paul Teboul, was put in Asia to roll out the concept there together with the region’s customer centres. At present, one roadshow takes place nearly every week, in locations around the globe.

Such is the case in Brazil. “All of these people who are participating work for safe and productive aviation, so the dialogue between them makes aviation an increasingly safe activity,” says Luiz Sergio Alves Pinto, Captain of the Rio de Janeiro State Military Police and Flight Safety Officer for the unit, who attended a roadshow for the city’s military police in July 2016.

Helicopter safety: a multi-faceted challenge

safety roadshow

The challenges facing helicopter safety vary. Some are managerial, with barriers to open dialogue, or cultural, where loss of face can stand in the way of speaking out. Sometimes incidents are first dealt with by finding a guilty party rather than as a means of learning. Another factor is a failure to enforce regulations.

Proof is carried out by the statistics. Compared to the accident rates for fixed-wing commercial air transport aircraft, helicopter manufacturers - regardless of the company - account for a higher rate of accidents. The accident rates vary strongly around the world. It is important to note that, compared to fixed-wing operations, helicopters are used for a wide range of operations; some of them are highly complex, such as aerial work and emergency medical services. In addition, the discrepancy in statistics may be accounted for because a number of other operations are less regulated or require less experience than commercial air transport does (i.e. general aviation).

In an analysis of its own range from 2011 to 2015, Airbus Helicopters found that North America had the lowest rate of accidents per flight hours. South and Central America accounted for, respectively, almost 3.5 and 4 times more accidents per flight hours. The root causes for an accident can be grouped into categories and while an accident frequently has several contributing factors, the two biggest reasons are identified as “operational,” that is, the preparation and execution of the flight, and “errors in maintenance activities.” From 2006 to 2010, 80 per cent of accidents were labeled “operational.”

Safety roadshows serve to place attention on these human factors-related challenges, with the hope that solutions will follow. A typical roadshow starts with accident statistics. A series of slides next encourage audience participation, with reflection-oriented topics meant to prompt further discussion, such as “No harm, no foul” and “Human error is manageable.” These are followed by an overview of Safety Management Systems (SMS) as a means of establishing a company safety policy. Finally, the presentation defines the concept of a “fair culture” as the opposite of punitive; it is, by contrast, an environment where people are willing to report errors and experiences for the purpose of learning, but also one where negligence and willful misconduct can be addressed. Roadshows are also the occasion to present tools such as the Vision 1000 cockpit camera and CAMO (Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisation).

Making change visible on the ground

Safety, Indonesia, aviation safety seminars

The number of roadshow veterans grew during 2016. In the second week of November, Indonesia organised its second safety roadshow, with operator Surya Air, after having hosted a successful roadshow with the Indonesian Air Force in September 2015. Twenty-nine people attended.

“Surya Air was delighted to organise this roadshow in their facilities,” says Romain Bonzom, Customer Support Manager at Airbus Helicopters in Indonesia. “They made the commitment to make safety happen not only on paper, but on the ground.”

Alain Folcolini, the customer centre’s Head of Operations and Safety, adds that for operators, “Safety is often on paper. It’s administrative. An example is the SMS, where the most important part is reporting incidents and the way this is implemented in the facility. Staff can fill out a form and put it in the box, but generally that box remains empty. Now, following the roadshow, they’re putting a method in place so that people report more.”

“We made a lot of improvements in the procedures that we apply on today’s flights. On maintenance flights, we changed procedures according to what we saw in the safety roadshow.”

Gianni Di Giammarino Schimunek

Safety Manager at Ecocopter in Chile

“Airbus is one of the companies worried about safety. They showed us real statistics, which are hard to get,” says Gianni Di Giammarino Schimunek, Safety Manager at Ecocopter, based in Chile, who attended a roadshow in June in Santiago. “We were able to get information directly from them and third parties, which was good.”

Presentations are tailored to each audience. Emphasis is placed on useful and empirical information and solutions. By providing a setting dedicated to learning, such gatherings have given rise to tangible results. “We made a lot of improvements in the procedures that we apply on today’s flights,” says Schimunek. “On maintenance flights, we changed procedures according to what we saw in the safety roadshow.”

“After the roadshow, we enhanced our operational safety management capabilities by using tools to measure risk analysis in our air operations,” says Captain Alves. “We adopted a matrix that allows us to register our Operational Safety Events to give us a clearer view of our activities.”

Participants also emphasise the value of hearing directly from the manufacturer. “Absolutely all the lessons were important,” says Captain Alves. “The greatest relevance of the training lies in the opportunity we have to learn from the manufacturer of the aircraft we fly, and that is fantastic.”

“This kind of interactive meeting, the professional presentations and the dedicated workshops help us to reach an active SMS,” says Florin Ciornei, SMS manager for the Romanian Ministry of Defence, EMS and Police Aviation Units. “We are sure that the continuation and development of this activity will contribute to our common objective: zero accidents.”

While there is growing awareness of the need for safety around the world, the message has yet to spread to every hallway and office of the industry. With service-oriented programmes like the safety roadshows, Airbus leads the way among OEMs in promoting a culture of openness as a means to reducing accident rates and improving safety. “Each aviation safety roadshow tour is a brick in the wall,” says Paul Teboul. “Bricks for a strong foundation for aviation safety.”

“We are sure that the continuation and development of this activity will contribute to ourcommon objective: zero accidents.”

Florin Ciornei

SMS manager for the Romanian Ministry of Defence, EMS and Police Aviation Units