Enhancing public helicopter safety as a component of homeland security
Fitzgerald, William Denis, Jr.
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The wide range of missions performed by public safety helicopters makes them a valuable asset for the public and to the homeland security environment. The high-risk missions, lack of regulatory oversight, and minimal standards of safety put public-safety helicopter aviation in the crosshairs of the National Transportation Safety Board. This study addresses how public safety aviation units' exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration regulations is a contributing factor to helicopter accidents. The study uses a qualitative analysis called coding to identify the common traits among accidents and then makes recommendations to prevent future accidents. There is currently no industry research identifying the commonalities among accidents like this research does. This thesis also identified the safety culture in the public safety units as a contributing factor to the accidents. The nature of public safety personnel is to accept high levels of risk to help those in need. When this attitude is applied to aviation, it leads to unnecessary accidents. The recommendations provided in the last chapter of the thesis provide techniques and solutions to help reduce the risk in public safety aviation. The recommendations, if adequately implemented, may help save lives by preventing future accidents.
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