A new safety message encouraging helicopter pilots to find a safe place to land when they encounter an abnormal situation while in flight has been launched at the Rotortech conference on the Sunshine Coast on Thursday.
The joint initiative from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) is called “don’t push it, land it”.
It calls on helicopter pilots “no matter their experience or the type of helicopter they fly, to make a precautionary landing if they experience a situation that just isn’t right”, the trio said in a joint statement.
It is hoped the initiative will reduce the rate of avoidable helicopter accidents while extending the safety messaging to all fixed-wing pilots at the same time.
“Pilots should always take advantage of their helicopter’s unique ability to land almost anywhere when things aren’t quite right in flight,” ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood said.
“If you’re faced with deteriorating weather or if something just doesn’t feel right, don’t push it, make a precautionary landing. If you do decide to push on, it could be the beginning of an accident sequence.”
CASA director of aviation safety Shane Carmody said there had been a “number of fatal accidents where, had the pilot decided to land, then the accident may not have occurred”.
“CASA will not take any disciplinary action against a pilot if they need to make a precautionary landing, provided it is performed in good faith, as safely as possible, and it did not endanger anyone,” Carmody said.
AHIA president Peter Crook said it was important pilots reached out to air traffic control and other pilots in the area when confronted with a situation they were not comfortable with.
“Speak up and make a ‘PAN’ call to air traffic control,” Crook said.
“Air traffic controllers and other pilots are there to help and can provide you with information to help make informed decisions to land your helicopter.
“And, if you’re planning to make a precautionary landing and you have an emergency locator transmitter on board, activate it too. You can always turn it off when you’re safely on the ground. All you have to do is give the Australian Maritime Safety Authority a call to let them know that everything is OK.
“I guarantee it will be the best phone call they’ll get all day.”
The initiative is also supported by businessman, aviation veteran and former CASA chairman Dick Smith.