Risk Assessment and Aeronautical Decision Making Concepts: A Case Study of Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e Helicopter Crash
Risk assessment is a critical component of operations in any industry. In the aviation industry, failure to carry out proper risk assessment directly puts lives and properties in danger. The 3 July 2015 crash of Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e helicopter owned by Air Methods Corporation is a classic case study of the dangers of failing to conduct a proper risk assessment. The crash that occurred just after takeoff was as a result of the organization’s failure to follow laid down aviation protocols and risk assessment procedure. The situation was further exacerbated by the pilot’s failure to follow due procedure of risk assessment before and just after takeoff.
Analysis and Evaluation
The first step in risk assessment that both the pilot of the helicopter and Air Methods Corporation failed to carry out is identifying hazard. This would have involved identifying any potential sources of harm and gauging the likelihood of such harm occurring (AirSafe.com, 2014; Tamasi & Demichela, 2011). Despite carrying several tests on the hydraulic system of their helicopters, the company failed to label the Service Bulletin (SB) as mandatory. The SB contained critical information on steps to follow when the dual-hydraulic servo controls jammed and how to restore them to normal operating pressure. Additionally, the company made improvements on the helicopter by upgrading its single hydraulic system to double. However, it failed to carry out risk assessment for helicopter before the day of the crash (NTSB, 2017).
This apparent oversight on the part of the company was also replicated to the pilot level. With the SB not labeled mandatory and changes made to the hydraulic system and associated “ON” and “OFF”, the pilot did not identify any potential harm or the probability of them occurring (NTSB, 2017). As a result, the pilot did not detect the low power on the right pedal which was necessary for takeoff. Preflight identification of hazard did not take place and therefore, the functional status of the helicopter’s compensator was not gauged.
By failing to carry out the first step in risk assessment, the company and pilot also failed to gauge those who were at risk of being harmed by the potential harm. The company did not gauge the potential adverse effects of their decision not to carry out due process in assessing the risk involved in upgrading the helicopter or not putting emphasis on the guidelines provided in SB. This also applies to the pilot. Failure at the initial step led to a downward spiral of the case. They parties failed to even characterized the risks. This includes assessing whether the existing weather condition would affect the helicopter during takeoff or on flight. As a result, the pilot attempted to takeoff without preflight system check in strong winds. With a dysfunctional hydraulic system, the gust of wind would have posed serious danger to the pilot, property and other third parties.
In conclusion, risk assessment calls for getting it right at the first step. Risk identification is a fundamental step towards effective risk assessment. It allows the parties to map out potential risks, harm while categorizing such harm. The crashing of Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e helicopter while taking off at a hospital helipad in Frisco, Colorado was as a result of systemic failure. The company that operated the helicopter failed to carry out proper risk assessment. These failures were transferred to the pilot and led to the helicopter crashing.
AirSafe.com. (2014). Risk Assessment Basics. Retrieved from: http://www.airsafe.com/risk/basics.htm#manage
NTSB. (2017). Aircraft Accident Report Loss of Control at Takeoff Air Methods Corporation Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e, N390LG Frisco, Colorado July 3, 2015. National Transportation Safety Board.
Tamasi, G. & Demichela, M. (2011). Risk Assessment Techniques for Civil Aviation Security. In: Reliability Engineering & System Safety, vol. 96, pp. 593-599.