Quick Links
Home Page
Web Use Agreement
Contact us

Helicopter Association International
Pre-Flight Risk Assessment tool


According to the FAA (Notice 8000.301): “A risk-assessment plan is a tool used by the flight management personnel and flight crews to expand the parameters of decision-making for the pilot and flight crew, and to assist in preflight planning and operational control of the aircraft. The company should have procedures on how to mitigate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.”
HAI is offering a web-based tool that allows members to customize their own risk assessment program. Since there is no “one size fits all” template available the tool allows each operator to consider its own operational and environmental needs in developing its risk assessment criteria for the tool to use.

This tool is known as a procedure-weighted program. This method standardizes risk assessment while minimizing training requirements. The program, once configured, uses a checklist format tool, with numerical weighting values, which trigger levels of concurrence with the pilot’s “go” decision.

One of the advantages of the procedure-weighted program is minimal training is required on the principles of risk assessment and risk management.  This method also standardizes the assessment of risks and mitigations.  It should be noted that this method does take some time and effort to complete the assessment before each flight and only addresses the defined risks.

Developing the Risks

Due to the diversity of helicopter operators and missions each operator must develop their own set of risk criteria. Here are some typical risk variables to consider when creating risk criteria for the go/no go decision:

 (a) Weather (Current and Forecast).

• Ceiling, visibilities-departure, en route, arrival, alternate
• Precipitation-type(s)
• Turbulence-existing and forecast
• Icing-type and forecast
• Winds/gust spread-wind direction, speed, gust spread
• Density altitude
• Ambient lighting

(b) Airworthiness Status of the Helicopter.

• Proper preflight
• Any deferred items in accordance with the Minimum Equipment List (MEL)
• Fuel and oil serviced
• Security of cowling(s), doors and/or equipment
• VFR vs. IFR equipment capabilities
• Inspection status
• Recent maintenance actions
• Time remaining until next inspection, overhaul, teardown, etc.
• Required current maps, approach plates, NOTAMs

(c) Incorporation of Technologies to Aid in Managing Risks.

• Radio/radar altimeters
• High intensity search/landing light systems
• Global positioning system (GPS) moving map systems
• Airborne weather radar systems
• Night vision goggles
• Enhanced vision systems
• Autopilot/stability augmentation systems
• Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS)
• Adequacy of training on new technologies

(d) Performance Margins.

• Weight/center of gravity margins
• High density altitudes
• Fuel margins and range limitations

(e) Pilot and Flight Crewmember Performance.

• Experience in make and model of helicopter, area of operations, and type of operation
• Rest, duty, and flight time impacts on human performance (additional duties during duty time and adequate sleep during rest period time)
• Personal performance factors, such as personal stress (recent divorce, death, illness, or birth in family)
• Influence of pilot’s knowledge of the patient’s status (pediatric, critical injury)
• Communication between crew and all pertinent specialists
• Continuity during shift changes
• Currency of training
• Inadvertent IMC training
• Crew resource management
• Experience of crewmembers operating together as a unit

(f) Operating Environment.

• Terrain/obstructions
• Ambient lighting
• Natural and industrial weather factors
• Availability and status of airports/heliports
• Air traffic density
• Knowledge that other operators in the area have declined the flight due to
• Localized weather
• Forecast weather
• Recent flight(s) experiencing marginal conditions
• Airspace requirements
• Communications and navigation facilities
• Availability of low-level VFR route structure

(g) Organizational Environment.

• Changes in required management personnel
• Changes in air carrier management
• Rapid expansion or growth
• New or major program changes
• Merger or takeover
• Labor management relations
• Organization accidents, incidents, or occurrence

EXAMPLES OF PROCEDURE-WEIGHTED RISK ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT PROCESSES From FAA Order 8900.1, Flight Standards Information Management System, CHG 22, Volume 4, Chapter 5, Section 5


< 6 mos. on Current Job

< 1 yr. in EMS
< 200 hrs. in Type
> 500 hrs. in Type
Last Flight > 30 Days
Last Night Flight > 30 Days (night requests only)
6 mos. Since Check Ride
Cockpit Not Configured for Inadvertent IMC
Navigation or Radio Item on MEL
Back-up Aircraft
Newly-installed Equipment (i.e., satellite phone, avionics, GPS)
Night Vision Goggles (NVG) Equipped
< 3 NVG Flights in the Last 120 Days
Crew < 1 yrs. Experience (both crewmembers)
IFR Program
VFR Program
External Stresses (divorce, illness, family/work issues/conflicts)
  Total Static Score

Ceiling within 200' of Program Minimums
Visibility within 1 Mile of GOM Minimumss
Precipitation with Convective Activity
Convective Activity with Frontal Passage
Deteriorating Weather Trend
High Wind or Gust Spread Defined by Operations Manual
Moderate Turbulence
Temperature/Dew Point < 3 Degrees F
Forecast Fog, Snow, or Ice
Weather Reporting at Destination
Mountainous or Hostile Terrain
Class B or C Airspace
Ground Reference Low
Ground Reference High
Night Flight
90% of Usable Fuel Required (not including reserve)
Flight Turned Down by Other Operators Due to Weather (if known)
Control Measures
Delay Flight
Avoid Mountainous/Hostile Terrain
Utilize Pre-Designated LZs for Scene Requests
Plan Alternate Fuel Stop
Familiarization Training (self-directed)
  Total Dynamic Score


PROCESSES (Continued)

EXAMPLE 1. GO/NO-GO DECISION MATRIX (Continued) Grand Total of Static and Dynamic Scores
NORMAL GREEN Pilot Approval 0 - 14
UNACCEPTABLE RED Cancel Flight 20 or Greater