Special Mission Helicopters – the case for EFIS, with synthetic vision and TAWS to reduce accidents

Note: EFIS stands for electronic flight information system. TAWS is terrain awareness warning system

Its ability to hover and land with pinpoint accuracy makes Helicopter an ideal craft for special missions. Special Missions are tasks that are not routine and regular. When conducting special missions, pilots are often required to go into unfamiliar territories, challenging terrain and made worse in rapidly changing weather.

When accidents happen it is easy to blame the pilots. Pilots are supposed to snag the aircraft, turn back, land in the event of non favorable flying conditions or suspected mechanical failures. But missions being missions, pilots always try to go the extra nautical mile, often ending up in fatal accidents and they end up posthumously getting the blame.

It is not fair. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the state of ALASKA.

A disproportionate number of US aircraft crashes occur in Alaska. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) there were 1,319 commuter and air taxi crashes (excluding General Aviation) between 1990—2004in the US of which 351 (27%) were fatal, resulting in 1,027 deaths. In contrast Alaska accounted for 473 (36%) of the total US air crashes resulting in 211 deaths (21% of all US deaths).

One in every 11 pilots flying in Alaska will lose their life to an aircraft related accident.Its geography, terrain and the rapidly changing weather are the reasons for the high rate of accidents.

The state took the initiative to commissions projects to reduce accidents. In an effort to minimize Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) accidents, the installation of EFIS complete with synthetic vision and Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) were mandated.

As a result of the initiatives accident rate reduce tremendously.


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