Strategic Safety Actions in EPAS

28 May 2020

What is EPAS?

The European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS) is the regional aviation safety plan for the countries that make up the EASA Member States.  It sets out the strategic priorities, enablers and main risks affecting the European aviation system.  The EPAS also outlines the actions that are needed to mitigate the risks and to further improve aviation safety. 

The EPAS is an integral part of EASA’s work programme.  It is largely based on the EASA Rotorcraft Safety Roadmap and is developed by EASA in close consultation with the EASA Member States and industry through the EASA Advisory Bodies. For the Rotorcraft Community, the Rotorcraft Committee (R.COM) coordinates the industry view and a representative from the European Helicopter Association (EHA) chairs this group.

The EPAS is a 5-year plan that is reviewed and updated on a yearly basis – the current plan covers the period 2020 to 2024.  All of the actions specifically related to Rotorcraft are outlined below and we will keep you updated on the latest status of them as work progresses. 

Key Risk Areas for the Main Types of Helicopter Operations

The EPAS actions are designed to tackle the top three key risk areas (accident outcomes) across the main types of helicopter operations.  Before we get into the actions themselves it is worth outlining these first:  

Offshore Helicopters: Aircraft upset, Helideck excursions, Obstacle collision in flight.

Other CAT Helicopters (Passenger/ HEMS): Terrain collision, Aircraft upset, Obstacle collision in flight.

Part SPO Helicopters: Aircraft upset, Terrain collision, Obstacle collision in flight. 

Non-Commercial Helicopters: Aircraft upset, Terrain collision, Injuries/ Damage (not involving other accident categories).

Robinson R66 Helicopter

Rotorcraft Safety Priorities and Associated Actions

Based on the safety analysis data the following priority 1 key risk areas are identified as the most important for the helicopter community:

Helicopter Upset in Flight (Loss of Control). 

This is the key risk area with the highest priority in offshore and CAT helicopter operations. Loss of control for offshore helicopter operations generally falls into two scenarios: technical failure that renders the aircraft uncontrollable or human factors. In addition, it is the second most common accident outcome for aerial work operations. The following actions contribute to mitigating risks in this area: RMT.0127, RMT.0709 and RMT.0711.

Terrain and Obstacle Conflict: 

This is the second priority key risk area for helicopter operations (offshore, other CAT, SPO and NCO), although equipment is now fitted to helicopters in some types of operation that will significantly mitigate the risk of this outcome. Obstacle collisions is the second most common accident outcome in the CAT helicopters domain. This highlights the challenges of HEMS operations and their limited selection and planning for landing sites. Terrain and obstacle conflict is the most common outcome for SPO (aerial work operations). The following action contributes to mitigating risks in this area: RMT.0708.

In addition, from an airspace perspective, it is important to ensure that the airspace and route design facilitate safe operations of helicopters which typically fly at low levels. Within SESAR 1, there have been solutions aiming to improve safety and efficiency of helicopter operations such as those supporting the establishment of low-level IFR routes.

What We Want to Achieve? 

Increase safety by continuously assessing and improving risk controls in the above areas. Increase efficiency by enabling implementation of appropriate and balanced regulation.

How We Monitor Improvement? 

Continuous monitoring of safety issues identified in our Domain Safety Risk Portfolios (check in the Analysis section for more information on these).  The EASA Advisory Bodies regularly provide feedback on the actions where efficiency/proportionality is the main driver.

Performance Monitoring

The Different Types of EPAS Actions

There are five different types of EPAS actions that are defined to improve aviation safety, these are: 

Rulemaking Tasks (RMTs). 

RMTs lead to new or amended regulatory material (implementing rules, acceptable means of compliance (AMC) or guidance material (GM)), but the related work is usually not limited to rules drafting. Depending on the scope and issues addressed, a rulemaking project may also include implementation support activities, such as the organisation of conferences, workshops, roadshows, the creation of frequently asked questions (FAQs), etc. An RMT may also be supported by a dedicated safety promotion task (SPT) managed in accordance with EASA’s Safety Promotion Strategy.  

Safety Promotion Tasks (SPTs). 

SPTs involve safety training, awareness/education and dissemination of safety relevant information to further engage and interact with relevant aviation stakeholders in order to positively influence or change individual behaviour with the ultimate objective of achieving predetermined aviation safety objectives. It includes the promotion of safety topics, rulemaking and awareness, communicating about safety intelligence, priorities and actions and other tasks to raise awareness with individuals, as well as organisations. SPTs can involve a wide range of deliverables that include guides, videos, text for use in websites and printed media, social media and outreach activities.

Research Actions (RES): 

RES actions are innovation- and/or efficiency-related research projects to support the safe integration of new technologies and concepts, and to measure the improvement of the environmental performance of the aviation sector. RES actions may also be triggered by the need to better understand a safety issue in view of determining intervention strategies in the future, or to assess the effectiveness of existing regulations, as an alternative to evaluations. The research projects included in EPAS are those triggered by safety recommendations (SRs) addressed to EASA and those either already covered by a funding source or likely to be funded by the start of the reference period of a given EPAS.

Evaluation Tasks (EVTs): 

EVTs are used to assess if existing aviation regulations and related initiatives (e.g. SPTs) are delivering the expected results at minimum cost.

Member State Tasks (MSTs): 

MSTs are actions that are owned by Member States and that have to be considered for their State Plan for Aviation Safety (SPAS), together with the main risks identified in EPAS relevant for the State.  MSTs may derive from operational safety issues identified in the ASR, safety priorities identified in the ICAO Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) or through the EASA Standardisation process (hence supported by Standardisation data). Related actions are defined in close collaboration with Member States, through the different EASA Advisory Bodies (ABs). Safety priorities include, but are not limited to, maintaining effective oversight capabilities, the implementation of effective State Safety Programmes (SSPs) and related State safety action planning. Most MSTs take the form of continuous actions to ensure continuous monitoring of the underlying safety risks and regular monitoring on progress of those Member State actions. Results of such monitoring are discussed with Member States during the regular Technical Body (TeB) meetings.

If you are not sure about the differences between the EPAS, SPAS and SMS check out the article on the EASA Website about different types of safety plan.   

EPAS Action – RMT.0120: Helicopter Ditching and Water Impact Occupant Survivability

This task aims at enhancing post-ditching and water impact standards for rotorcraft that could significantly enhance occupant escape and survivability. The task has also considered the recommendations arising from early work performed by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) Water Impact, Ditching Design and Crashworthiness Working Group (WIDDCWG) and the Helicopter Offshore Safety and Survival Working Group (HOSSWG).

  • Latest Situation:  In a first phase, EASA addressed the changes in CS-27/29. The task is now in the second phase, that will consider whether there is also the need to amend Part-26/CS-26.

EPAS Action – RMT.0127: Pilot Compartment View

This RMT is to address a safety issue related to rotorcraft windshield misting and subsequent restriction of pilot vision. The existing rules are unclear as to what is required and how compliance can be demonstrated. The specific objective is to mitigate the risks linked to restricted pilot vision, particularly during critical phases of flight (take-off, landing, low hover), by requiring a means to remove or prevent the misting of internal portions of transparencies in rotorcraft, thus ensuring safe operations in all likely flight and operating conditions. In addition, the RMT’s scope is proposed to be extended to address the rules governing pilot vision in snow conditions, which are unclear, particularly in relation to piston-engine rotorcraft.

  • Latest Situation:  The Terms of Reference for the RMT will be completed later in 2020 with the current plan to complete the NPA by Q1 2021.

EPAS Action – RMT.0325: Helicopter Emergency Medical Services Performance and Public Interest Sites

This RMT is intended to properly address the issues stemming from non-implementation or deviation from JAR-OPS 3 performance and public interest sites (PIS) provisions; in particular, performance in high mountains considering review of HEMS flights at night safety level following a UK Safety Directive.-

  • Latest Situation:  The NPA was completed in 2018 and the EASA Opinion is due to be published in Q3 2021. 

EPAS Action – RMT.0708: Controlled Flight into Terrain Prevention with Helicopter Terrain Awareness Warning Systems (HTAWS)

Mandating HTAWS is expected to prevent between 8.5 and 11.5 CFIT accidents with fatalities or severe injuries within 10 years (medium safety improvement). This RMT will consider mandating the installation of HTAWS on board the helicopter for certain operations. The RMT should only mandate HTAWS to be retrofitted to the current fleet if HTAWS standards are improved. An appropriate impact assessment for retrofit will need to be further developed. Based on the preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis, HTAWS for the following operations are not to be considered: NCO, SPO, and CAT with small helicopters in visual flight rules (VFR) operations (night and day). For offshore helicopter operations, this also includes the involvement of the EASA Certification Directorate working with stakeholders on the evaluation of updated HTAWS standards.

  • Latest Situation:  The TOR for this task was completed in July 2019 and the NPA is expected in Q2 2021.    

EPAS Action – RMT.0724 (and SPT.082): Rotorcraft Flight Crew Operating Manuals (FCOMs) – Tasks For Rulemaking and Safety Promotion

The objective of this RMT is to improve the operating information provided to rotorcraft flight crew through the aircrew operating manuals. This could be achieved by standardising the structure and approach used to present operational information in rotorcraft manuals, thereby improving the clarity of this information. This RMT will consider the current approach utilised in CS-25 AMC, and other initiatives such as the activity undertaken by Heli Offshore.  The SPT specifically involves coordinated support through Heli Offshore that provides support to manufacturers, if needed, in the development of FCOMs for different helicopter types and support/encourage operators in their implementation.

  • Latest Situation:  The TOR for the RMT is expected in Q3 2020.  On the SPT, the work is progressing well to implement FCOMs for the main helicopter types used Offshore. 

EPAS Action – SPT.092: Improve Dissemination of Existing Safety Promotion Material by Developing Mobile Applications and E-Platforms

Reaching target audience is one of the main challenges of safety promotion. This tasks aims at improving dissemination of existing safety promotion material by developing mobile applications and e-platforms. This will increase user-friendliness of existing paper format safety promotion material and will facilitate translations and future revisions.

  • Latest Situation:  The Safety Promotion Community Site for Rotorcraft is now launched and available through both normal and mobile devices – we continue to evolve and improve. 

EPAS Action – SPT.093: Development of New Safety Promotion Material on High-Profile Helicopter Issues

In cooperation with the Internatiopnal Helicopter Safety Foundation (IHSF) and the European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft (ESPN-R), develop new safety promotion material (leaflets, videos, applications, etc.) on important and high-profile safety issues for the Rotorcraft Community. 

  • Latest Situation:  This action is the heart of our Safety Promotion for the Rotorcraft Community.  Guided by the EASA Rotorcraft Committee’s priorities and the EPAS Key Risk Areas we will continually cover all the most important Safety Issues.  In the current situation, this also covers the recovery and return to work aspects of COVID-19.

EPAS Action – SPT.094: Helicopter Safety and Risk Management

This task will review existing helicopter safety & risk management material to check consistency and update (when applicable) material to reflect new rules, standards and international good practice coming for example from IHSF and the Safety Management International Collaboration Group (SMICG).

  • Latest Situation:  Together4Safety is in the process of setting up a dedicated promotinal channel to support better implementation of Safety Management.  There is also ESPN-R activity specifically for the Rotorcraft community and mainly aimed towards the needs of small operators. 

EPAS Action – SPT.096: Organisation of an Annual Safety Workshop

The European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) to organise a safety forum, in cooperation with the trade shows. This high-profile event promotes safe helicopter operations and fosters interactions within the community. The event theme changes every year.

EPAS Action – SPT.099: Helicopter Hoist Safety Promotion

Develop safety promotion material for helicopter hoists to help share best practices. 

  • Latest Situation:  Material is continually under development and material is posted both in this website and also the ESPN-R LinkedIn Group

EPAS Action – RES.008: Integrity Improvement of Rotorcraft Main Gear Boxes (MGB)

Further to the investigation of the EC225 LN-OJF accident, the research aimed at identifying threats to the integrity of critical components of rotor drive systems and at developing methods for evaluating flaw-tolerant critical component designs. Specifically, this includes enhancements to the design of helicopter MGB and its attachments, to preclude separation of the mast and main rotor from the helicopter and to enable autorotation even in the event of major failure of the main gear box components.

  • Latest Situation:  The research work is just beginning and updates will be posted here when it becomes available. 

EPAS Action – RES.009: Helicopter Offshore Operations — New Flotation Systems

Assessment of technical solutions for enhancing helicopter flotation at sea in view of heightening survivability following helicopter capsizes, which is the major event conducive to fatalities due to drowning.

  • Latest Situation:  The research work is just beginning and updates will be posted here when it becomes available.