1 Night Helicopter EMS (HEMS) Operations Safety Paul M. Schaaf, Chief PilotFairfax County Police Helicopter DivisionGood morning Ladies and Gentlemen. I am sorry that I am not with you in person today.Thank you for allowing me to present my thoughts on Night Helicopter EMS Safety. This 16 slide presentation will take approximately 13 minutes. – pause-The main point of this presentation is advocating for increased IMC preparedness for VFR helicopter operators.Charles Lindberg spent many of his 33 ½ hours crossing the Atlantic in his very unstable “Spirit of St Louis” in IMC. When he was not hallucinating from exhaustion, Mr. Lindberg’s was looking at these instruments to control his aircraft:+Click+(Click the mouse to start presentation)
2 Next I will show you a typical VFR certified helicopter instrument panel. +Click+
3 And we still have pilots crashing due to inadvertent IMC And we still have pilots crashing due to inadvertent IMC. We can do better.+Click+
4 Excerpt from FAA NOTICE N 8000.301 A preliminary review of the commercial HEMS accidents from January 1998 through December 2004 revealed thatCONTROLLED FLIGHT INTO TERRAIN (CFIT),INADVERTENT FLIGHT INTO INSTRUMENT METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS (IMC), ANDLACK OF OPERATIONAL CONTROLare predominant factors, particularly at night and during low visibility conditions.On August 1st of this year, the FAA released a notice promoting the use of risk assessment programs for HEMS operators. This notice refers to the 27 fatal HEMS accidents between 1998 and 2004 and lists +click+ controlled flight into terrain, +click+ inadvertent IMC and +click+ lack of operational control as predominant factors during night and low visibility conditions.+click+
5 Excerpt from FAA NOTICE N 8000.301 ContinuedOf the 27 fatal HEMS accidents, 21 occurred during night operations. Of the 21 night accidents, 16 of the operations originated under visual flight rules (VFR); the pilots inadvertently flew into IMC conditions, resulting in a CFIT accident.+click+21 of these fatal accidents occurred during night operations. Because nighttime introduces risk factors and generally reduces operational control, I believe that the real solution to solving this problem lies in addressing basic pilot skills and cultures affecting pilot’s abilities to avoid CFIT and crashes as a result of inadvertent flight into IMC. I would like to present a 3 step program that I have led in my organization to mitigate these risks.+Click+
6 Three Steps to Safety Break the VFR/IFR wall Train, Equip and Change the CultureChange standard vertical flight profilesAcceptance and deployment of Night Vision GogglesHELICOPTER pilotIFRSKILLSYEARS IN CAREERInstrument Rating+Click +Click+The first step I call “Breaking the VFR/IFR Wall”. By this I mean rejecting the commonly held notion that helicopter pilots instrument skills go downhill steadily after the instrument rating. +Click+ I believe that we need to maintain and improve our instrument proficiency – especially as VFR operators. +Click+ Click+ Our aircraft are well equipped to fly safely in IMC and in our organization, instrument skills are core skills that we maintain through a culture of practice and evaluation. +Click+The second step is a policy of night time vertically take offs and and higher cruise altitudes+Click+And the third step was accepting night vision goggles. We rejected the myths surrounding NVGs and integrated them successfully into our operation for less money and in less time than anyone thought possible.Now lets look in detail at the concept of breaking the VFR/IFR wall:+click+
7 #1- Breaking the VFR/IFR Wall Accepting RealityUnpredictable and unknown flight conditions will remain a factor in HEMS missions.HEMS pilots will continue to accept VFR missions that cannot be completed safely in VMC.Dealing with RealityVFR HEMS pilots must be capable and confident in IMC.VFR HEMS operators must equip helicopters for inadvertent IMC and train pilots accordingly.Pilots must unhesitatingly fly their company’s IMC recovery plan when necessary without fear of reprimand.+Click+We cannot change the reality.+click+HEMS flight conditions will remain challenging and +click+flight crews will continue to accept missions into them. +click+However, we can begin to regard helicopters and their pilots as being safe for IFR recoveries and utilize this capability when necessary. +click+ To do this, we must train our pilots+click+ equip our helicopters +click+and change the culture
8 #1- Breaking the VFR/IFR Wall Train, Equip and Change the Culture Train for IMCConduct Instrument Proficiency Checks every six months utilizing 2/2/20 aircraft control standardsRequire pilots to perform routine instrument approaches for procedural proficiencyHELICOPTER pilotInstrument RatingIFRSKILLSYEARS IN CAREER+click+ +click+HEMS operators that operate at night should conduct Instrument Proficiency Checks every six months and add the 2/2/20 manuever that I discuss in the following slide. +click+ Additionally, the performance of routine instrument approaches should be required during the course of normal flying duty for procedural proficiency.The goal +click+ is to build pilot’s IFR skills and confidenceLet me now explain the 2/2/20 maneuver:+click+
9 Commercial Pilot Standards “2, 2 and 20” ManeuverMaintain straight-and-level flight: heading within 2 degrees, airspeed within 2 knots and altitude within 20 feet (for at least 2 minutes).In visual conditions – no view limiting device requiredCommercial Pilot Standards2,2 and 20 Standards+click+In my opinion, there is no better way to develop a pilot’s basic instrument skills.+click+ 10/10 and 100 standards pause +click+ and 2/2 and 20In nearly any helicopter, these tightened standards demand a correlation of aircraft controls and instrument scan that exceed that imposed by IMC. This maneuver, if added to your training program, will markedly increase pilot’s ability to control an aircraft confidently in IMC and significantly reduce pilot’s stress in transition from VMC to IMC. +click+Because no view limiting device is required, this is a task that pilots can practice on virtually any flight.
10 #1- Breaking the VFR/IFR Wall Train, Equip and Change the Culture Equip Aircraft for IMCEnsure aircraft and have basic instruments, communication and navigation radios and MELs written accordinglyConsider installation of hand-held GPS system with terrain, obstacles and GPS driven flight instruments+click+Program Directors must properly equip VFR certified helicopters for emergency IMC.The basics for instrument flight must be installed and functional for night flightIf aircraft are not equipped with moving map technologies, management should consider an inexpensive mount for one of the many hand-held multi-function displays such as pictured. Moving maps have radically changed IFR for the better.
11 #1- Breaking the VFR/IFR Wall Train, Equip and Change the Culture Change the Culture of IMC FearPlace emphasis on instrument flying as a core pilot skill – especially VFR-only operators.Issue an appropriate policy statement supporting pilots that reject low altitude “scud-running” and elect safer emergency IFR alternatives.+click+Perhaps the biggest challenge in breaking the VFR/IFR Wall is changing the culture.However, if leadership prioritizes instrument training, pilot’s anxiety about IFR/IMC will decrease, proficiency will increase and better decisions will be made.A pilot’s stress in IMC should not be compounded by a lack of clarity from his company. Safer, emergency IFR alternatives should be clearly acceptable if not encouraged by official company policy.
12 #2- Change Vertical Profiles Establish night time vertical take-off to at least 100 feet AGL when OGE performance is availableEstablish night time 1,000 foot AGL minimum enroute1000 Ft AGL minimumStep #2 is probably the easiest and most overlooked risk mitigation step in helicopter operations.+click+Helicopter pilots generally fly unnecessarily low. +click+Commonly used level acceleration take-offs are a significant risk factor at night and the common enroute altitude of approximately 500 feet AGL exposes pilots to obstruction hazards.+click+ +click+Vertical take-offs to 100 feet AGL virtually eliminate the risk of striking obstructions in this phase of flight.+click++click+Increasing minimum enroute altitude from 500 feet to 1000 feet AGL will significantly reduce CFIT risks and significantly reduce VMC to IMC stress and add to the options available to the pilot.90th Percentile US Obstruction50th Percentile500 Ft AGL – Common enroute altitude100 Ft AGLH
13 #3- Night Vision Goggles NVGs are a safety enhancement that will reduce CFIT incidents and night time inadvertent IMC.Make possible the performance of certain night time operations resulting in increased productivity and revenueMost decision makers in today’s helicopter industry witnessed the military’s struggles to integrate night vision goggles in the 80s and 90s. Unfortunately this has negatively biased a large segment of the helicopter community toward NVGs.+click+NVGs make flying at night safer and will reduce accidents. And, NVGs significantly reduce the likelihood of inadvertent IMC.The cost of an NVG program will be offset by increased mission capability for most operators.
14 #3- Night Vision Goggles Significant improvements in last decadeAcuity increasedHalo effect reducedAdaptability to bright and changing light conditionsAircraft exterior lighting changes are not necessary (search light, landing lights, etc)STC standards for cockpit lighting are based on older generation goggles and should be reviewed – a totally NVG compatible cockpit is no longer necessary!+click+NVGs have improved greatly. Chief among the improvements are better acuity, reduced halo effect, and excellent adaptability to changing light conditions. Modern goggles work excellently in a brightly lit suburban environment.Civilian NVG applications do not require changes to the aircraft’s exterior lighting.Lastly, aviation authorities should review outdated STC standards for cockpit lighting. In Fairfax County, we have a a field approved “alternate cockpit lighting system” that was 1/3rd the price of an STC’ed kit and works at least as well, if not better.
15 SummaryHEMS pilots should be encouraged to develop and maintain their instrument flying as a core pilot skill.Helicopters flying HEMS missions at night must be equipped for emergency IMC.Our culture and standards should discourage low-level “scud-running” over safer, well thought out alternatives.Helicopter pilots should fly higher – especially at night.NVGs should be used by all HEMS operators working at night.Aviation authorities should work to facilitate this goal by re-evaluating standards for certification and addition to Part 135 operations specifications.+click+Instrument competent pilots in properly equipped aircraft +click+ are the only safe way to fly night HEMS missions.We must provide these pilots with safer alternatives to “scud running” because they will continue to perform missions in marginal to unmanageable weather conditions. +click+At night, pilots should be taking off vertically when possible and flying higher. +click+NVGs should become the rule rather than the exception they will keep us from flying VFR into IMC and out of most CFIT situations. +click+ The authorities should help pave the way for this important step towards safer operations.
16 Thank you!Please contact me with questions via at:Thank you for your attention. I wish you all the best in your individual efforts towards improving helicopter flight safety.