The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) is a volunteer organization that does excellent work analyzing safety data and making recommendations for best practices. It recently analyzed 500 accidents and released its latest list of seven initiatives that would make helicopter operations safer.

They include:

1. Install and use cockpit recording devices: Install and incorporate flight data monitoring equipment to record the actions of the flight crew. Data can be used for immediate feedback to trainers, operators and flight crews. The data could also aid during accident investigation to support a more complete analysis and future safety recommendations.

2. Improve autorotation training: Enhance auto rotation training in both primary and advanced flight training and develop simulator programs to improve auto rotation skills.

3. Add advanced maneuvers to simulator training: Incorporate a simulator training program that includes dynamic rollover, emergency procedures training, ground resonance, quick stop maneuvers, targeting approach procedures, and practice with pinnacle approaches, unimproved landing areas, and elevated platforms.

4. Enhance training about awareness, performance and emergencies: Establish training programs that evaluate the proficiency of critical issues such as systems failures, impending weather concerns, effects of density altitude, and wind and surface conditions. Continually evaluate pilots on aircraft performance, the effects of density altitude, gross weight and flight manual limitations. Also emphasize loss of system, recognition and recovery training.

5. Implement a personal risk management program: Encourage the use of a personal risk management program such as the IMSAFE checklist and other simple safety tools.

6. Establish a safety management system: A formal safety management system (SMS) requires training for specific missions, the establishment and enforcement of standard operating procedures, provisions and training of personnel to use risk assessment tools, and most importantly, a focus on changing the safety culture to ensure that all personnel put safety first during every mission.

7. Adhere to maintenance compliance and quality assurance: Strictly follow the manufacturer's maintenance manuals and practices. Implement a robust quality assurance program that ensures the use of manufacturers maintenance manuals, service bulletins and procedures.

The nation's largest helicopter EMS provider, Air Methods, already has implemented many of these. They also announced another significant safety advance in December with plans to open a new learning center next year in Denver in cooperation with FlightSafety International.

The center will eventually feature four Level D, full-motion simulators for the four common helicopter types that comprise most of the Air Methods fleet — the Bell 407GX, Airbus EC135, Airbus AS350 B3 and Airbus EC130T2. The learning center will also offer classrooms and can be expanded in the future to accommodate additional full flight simulators as required.