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Column Q & A Inte r v i ewed by O l i ve r Joh n son Gretchen Haskins Gretchen Haskins is chief executive officer of HeliOffshore — the global, safety-focused association for the offshore helicopter industry. Vertical: How did you get into the aviation industry? Gretchen Haskins: I used to ice skate…. There’s something you weren’t expecting! My dad spent all of his money paying for me to ice skate, and so then felt it would be a good idea for me to go to a mili- tary university that would pay for my educa- tion — and that is literally how I got into avia- tion. I went to the U.S. Air Force Academy and they taught me to fly. I developed a strong interest in human factors engineering, and I was hooked on aviation from there. My whole career has been spent trying to do human factors well — trying to ensure that the people in the aviation industry have the tools, equipment, procedures, environ- ment and leadership they need to do their jobs well. And I started doing that by flying myself, then working in the procurement of ballistic mission systems, then the design of military systems, then the certification of mili- tary systems, then in air traffic control, and then in regulation. And now, helicopters. And in all those jobs, I’ve seen different aspects of the same issues going from how people in the front line make decisions, to how people in the boardroom make decisions. I’ve really been doing the human factors engineering on that in my career, and trying to ensure that all those groups can work together towards a common cause, making the industry safe, effective, efficient, and that the people can play their part in all of that. V: How did HeliOffshore come into being? What attracted you to join it? G.H.: There was a group of helicop- ter operator CEOs that had the vision to decide that safety is not a com- petitive issue — it’s a collaborative issue. 32 Ver tical M aga zine Although they were fierce commercial competitors, they formed HeliOffshore, and asked me if I would be interested in setting it up and leading it. It was an offer I couldn’t resist. It was so exciting and inspirational to see what they were doing. I don’t know of another organization like it, where competitors have said, “We’ll pool our resources, we’ll pool our intellect, we’ll work together, and we’ll extend our hand to everyone who has a stake in offshore helicopter transport, including the manu- facturers, the oil companies, the suppliers, the other operators worldwide, large and small, research institutions — everybody — and have an organization that’s really going to have this conversation across the industry.” What are the areas where we could focus to make the greatest dif- ferent to safety? How can we get into action to get those things done, ensure that they’re planned, and that there’s a timeline, there’s resources, and we have a way of having oversight to see if we’re get- ting what we really want? We call it “Global Collaboration, Frontline Results.” And I think that kind of summarizes our remit. We don’t believe anyone should go to work and not be assured that they’re going to come home safely to their loved ones, and so we’re focused on what it will take to get there. We have a very strong safety record in our industry, many forms of transport would love to have the perfor- mance we have, but in aviation one life lost is one too many, and we’re determined to work together to ensure that we really drive performance even further. V: How wide is your working scope as an association? Do you have representative responsibili- ties beyond the issue of safety? G.H.: We figure if we get safety — if we’re doing safety really well together — everything else follows. But our only remit is safety. V: Are offshore operations becoming safer? G.H.: Yes. And there’s lots of evidence for that. I see improvements happening in many areas all the time. And I also see that there is more we can do, and so that’s where we’re focusing. V: You have had tremendous growth over the two years you’ve been in existence. How have you achieved that? G.H.: We have over 100 members from every region of the world, and we’re really excited about that. And it’s interesting to see that that’s happened at the same time as the downturn in oil prices. What I see is a huge commitment to safety in our industry, and we’re able to get things done that are difficult for any one organization to do by themselves. For example, we’ve researched improvements that could be made to the terrain avoidance warning system, that helps a crew to know if they’re coming towards an obstacle or the water. And getting some- thing like that implemented usually takes many years, but we can get together in one room the CEOs of the suppliers, the prime contractors at the OEMs, the regulators, the operators, the oil companies and we can say: “If we all work together, this would be the critical path schedule to get it done by the end of 2017,” and they all commit to it. We’re on track to deliver it by the end of next year, and it’s just fantastic to see. There are so many examples I could give you. We did eye tracking research to see where the pilot really looks when using an automated cockpit. It was a collab- orative effort: we paid for the researcher; Airbus donated time in the simulator; and Babcock, CHC and Bristow put forward the pilots. This is providing fundamental data to help us improve procedures, train- ing, and even future designs. Instead of everyone having to pay for that separately, we pay for it once, we pool our resources, and we can get the results. V: The organization is not-for- profit, but how are you funded? G.H.: People pay a membership fee to join. We have had instances of specific projects getting additional funding or donations to the group for safety projects. And we also get huge generosity from our members in terms of making our resourc- es available. So, for example, Airbus, Sikorsky, Leonardo, and Bell are all work- ing on flight crew operations manuals for pilots by working with teams of engineers and pilots to develop and implement the procedures. It takes time to do a project