StarSpeed News

How To Tell Your Cats From Your Dogs

15/05/2015 11:47:00

Every Industry is being influenced by the exponential advances in technology.

The helicopter industry not least: We’re seeing fourth generation aircraft such as the Bell 429 and the AW169 coming into service, increasingly automated cockpits and sophisticated avionic aids, such as night vision systems.

 AW169 - Fourth Generation Helicopter

The benefits are exciting: Reduced costs, reduced maintenance, greater reach and ultimately, more access to the convenience and opportunities that helicopter travel can provide. And along with these exciting possibilities, of course, come challenges.

For the Helicopter Industry our greatest challenge has always been and WILL always be safety.

As technology advances safety systems are integral to the machinery – but what about those people who fly and operate the aircraft?

Aviation now generally seen as ubiquitous, is greatly influenced by the capability and culture of the people and organisations flying the aircraft; it’s a value-driven service.

As a customer choosing to make use of that service, you are putting your trust in our hands. So what should you be looking out for – how do you tell your CATs from your dogs?

In the first instance the Commercial Helicopter Industry is heavily regulated: The rules under which aircraft are both designed and flown are the Commercial Air Transport rules or CAT!

Operators need to hold an Air Operator Certificate issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

These regulations and requirements form a substantially solid foundation – but as technology continues to advance at pace, there’s also a paradigm shift that needs to be embraced within both the cockpit and on the ground. A shift that potentially, is outpacing the bureaucracy of regulation.

It’s no longer simply about ability to operate complex machinery… with lots of levers and buttons … it’s also about the less easily quantifiable qualities of communication, confidence and decision making processes throughout the whole organisation; from engineering to operations to maintenance, as well as flying.

The entire British Helicopter Industry would acknowledge these qualities need to be front and centre, as it strives to improve safety and live up to the trust that passengers and clients place in it.

Starspeed Director, Dr. Simon Mitchell recently organised a Safety Day on behalf of the Corporate Aviation Safety Executive. It was hosted by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch and supported by the CAA.

The day was an opportunity for the industry to focus on present systems and how measures could be taken to improve the safety of flying helicopters. More than 40 senior pilots and management personnel from the various sectors of the UK onshore helicopter industry attended.

It was an excellent opportunity to get together and discuss in an open, honest and soul searching manner the ever evolving challenges of safety in the modern era of aviation.

Issues of safety that have been highlighted through the rigorous process of accident investigation and research, conducted by the Government investigation agency, known as the AAIB. The AAIB is a completely independent body of highly experienced and skilled engineers and pilots. It’s contribution to improving safety was recognized a 100 years ago when it was first formed, and is equally respected today.

Dr. Simon Mitchell, is a visiting fellow at Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre, specialising in Safety Management Systems for Aviation.

As you would expect, Starspeed is at the forefront of implementing Safety Management Systems that embrace a holistic approach: Looking at all the different dimensions of risk; including reputation, legal and financial – a process sometimes called Enterprise Risk Management.

So, what should you look out for over and above the base-line regulations?

Starspeed holds IS-BAO accreditation and received a glowing report from the auditors, stating: “We were very impressed with the level of professionalism demonstrated by the company in all matters relating to safety management”. 


With this standard, any customer can be assured that the organization accredited, achieves levels of performance in excess of the already stringent regulatory requirements of the Air Operator Certificate.

The IS-BAO (International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations has been developed by the International Business Aviation Council and its member associations. It is a recommended code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve high levels of safety and professionalism. It not only looks at a safe aviation environment – but also looks at empowering a whole organisation to be involved in a safety culture.

And within the context of empowering the whole organization to be engaged with safety systems, Starspeed has again led the way by putting our Ground Operations Manager, Sarah French through the BHA and CAA Chief Pilots’ Course; a measure strongly supported by the CAA. Sarah is the first Ground Operations Manager to attend such a course in the UK helicopter charter business and it further enables her to fully integrate Ground Operations with Flight Operations to achieve higher standards of safety for all concerned.

Sarah French, Starspeed Ground Operations Manager

Customers should always have in mind that aviation is not a commodity but is a value driven service: It’s worth distinguishing your CAT from you DOG by asking about the Safety Management Systems that are in place.

Dr. Simon Mitchell will be speaking at the Heli UK Expo at Sywell on May 29th on behalf of the British Helicopter Association and the European Helicopter Safety Team. 

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