That Others May Live – Inadvertent IMC & The Value of Flight Data Monitoring
Airbus Helicopters have produced a remarkable 15 minute video that describes the lessons from an Inadvertent Instrument Metrological Condition (IIMC) incident during a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) flight in the US, which includes a frank interview with the pilot. That Others May Live Video
Such operation in a Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) was the subject of a UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) research report in 2003. Analysis by the European Helicopter Safety Analysis Team (EHSAT) shows that the resulting spatial disorientation in IIMC/DVE is a major cause of accidents. Consequently, the French Institut pour l’Amélioration de la Sécurité Aérienne (IASA) developed a video to highlight the threat.
This event, which could so easily have been a fatal accident, would have passed by with no learning if it wasn’t for the data from a small on-board Appareo Vision 1000 unit. Vision 1000 was developed by Appareo with Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter), and enhances the low cost, lightweight flight data recorder capability of Appareo’s earlier ALERTS system (developed in partnership with Bristow Group), by adding a cockpit camera.
Vision 1000 was first introduced in 2009. The unit weighs around 300g, can be retrofitted for less than US$10,000, requires simply a 28V power supply and can record up to two hours of sound and visual images and now in the order of 200 hours of flight data. It has been standard on US produced AS350s for a number of years and Airbus Helicopters have announced it will be standard on all their new production helicopters.
UPDATE 5 November 2014: NTSB held a board meeting on a loss of control accident in 2013 to an Alaskan State Trooper AS350B engaged in a search and rescue mission. NTSB made a number of findings and recommendations and again emphasise the value of recorders such as, in this case, the Appareo Vision 1000.
UPDATE 10 June 2018: Italian HEMS AW139 Inadvertent IMC Accident We look at the ANSV report on a HEMS helicopter Inadvertent IMC event that ended with an AW139 colliding with a mountain in poor visibility.
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