Aircraft Safety

Aircraft Safety

Safety is probably Horizon Helicopters’ number one priority and it influences almost all aspects of the Autocopter’s design, from automation of the functions that lower the pilot’s workload to the triplex nature of its engines, drive systems and flight controls.

Three of the directors of Horizon Helicopters Ltd have been deeply involved in aircraft safety for much of their working lives. Ron Stewart, the CEO, was a major promoter and designer of Health and Usage Monitoring (HUM) systems as the Founder, MD and Chairman of Stewart Hughes Lt from 1980 to 1998, and after that in the design technologies for commercial fly-by-wire flight controllers as the Founder and CEO of High Integrity Solutions Ltd. All of the systems involved had a safety critical aspect to them, whether it was in actual control or warnings to be given to the pilot.

North Sea helicopter operations were in the 1980s and 90s a major driver of safety R&D. Since 1980 there have been at least four major helicopter accidents in the North Sea involving the loss of some 70 to 80 lives.  Three were for mechanical reasons and one for pilot error.  The North Sea is a fearsome environment for a helicopter to work in.  Scheduled operations, often having to be executed in bad weather, places a huge workload and stress on pilots.  Oil platforms are difficult places to land on.  High utilisation rates shows up design flaws in aircraft that might never otherwise be seen.

Horizon Helicopters has therefore accumulated a huge amount of experience of how to design helicopters that are safer than average to fly in. The Kobe Bryant accident of 2020, described in the Press section of this website, should be read by anyone interested in how complex an issue aircraft safety is.

Horizon Helicopters has a database of perhaps some 60 aircraft accidents involving both mechanical failure, software failure and pilot error, and it involves some 60 odd different causes.  However, many of them can be traced back to a much smaller number of root causes and possible diagnostics on how they can yield to early detection.

In the 1990s, Stewart Hughes, now part of GE Aviation, received a contract from the UK’s CAA to create a system that used Flight Data Recorder information to identify weaknesses in how individual pilots flew their aircraft. The purpose, quite rightly, was not to penalise the pilots but to institute training programmes that helped them become better pilots. It was a massive success.

Horizon Helicopters hopes to offer services such as these to Autocopter pilots.