Hurst, TX. (07 October 2022) – The inaugural edition of the Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST) Global Conference has concluded in Hurst, Texas, USA, with solid reviews from attendees and presenters. The three-day event, which ran Oct. 4–6, 2022, focused on collaborative efforts to improve safety across all segments of the international VTOL aviation industry, including flight operations, maintenance, and—for the first time—advanced air mobility.
VAST produced the conference in partnership with the FAA, the US Helicopter Safety Team (USHST), and Helicopter Association International (HAI), with significant contributions from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Specific sessions also provided FAA WINGS and AMT continuing education credits for attendees.
To encourage participation by the global VTOL community, the conference was a mix of in-person and virtual presentations, and some panel sessions included remote speakers. “At one point, the stage was empty, but the audience was still fully engaged in listening to a presenter speaking from halfway around the world,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI and one of the two advisors to VAST.
With the theme of “The New Era of Vertical Lift – Collaboration in Safety Culture,” the conference emphasized global collaboration as the key to improving rotorcraft safety. “Somewhere, around the world, an aviation safety advocate has the answer to slowing or stopping accidents,” said Miguel Marin, chief operational safety at ICAO and a VAST advisor, during a video message that opened the conference. “VAST was formed so that we could use the ideas that have proved most successful, regardless of the language or location from where they originated.”
Highlights of the first day included keynote speaker Lirio Liu, FAA executive director, Aircraft Certification, who addressed various certification and safety topics. Lee Roskop, FAA, and John Franklin, EASA, spoke on US and European helicopter accident statistics and trends. The day ended with a panel discussion titled “How Do We Reduce Accidents and the Severity of Accidents?” featuring moderator Bruce Webb of Airbus Helicopters and panelists Thomas Gogel, Airbus Helicopters; Phil Jennings, Milwaukee Regional Medical Center/Integra Aviation; and Tony Randall, Bell.
More than 220 people attended the event in person, and over 30 participants registered to attend virtually. On the second day of the conference, live and virtual attendees were able to participate in three tracks:
- In the Operations track, attendees listened to various panel discussions and presentations, including a compelling first-person account from Gordy Cox, pilot and director of operations, Redding Air Service, who provided details and lessons learned from his personal experience with a wire-strike incident
- Attendees following the Maintenance track could attend maintenance courses from aircraft manufacturers Airbus, Bell, Leonardo, Schweizer, and Sikorsky
- Those participating in the Advanced Air Mobility track heard speakers on infrastructure, community acceptance of VTOL aircraft, and hydrogen-powered rotorcraft.
All participants rejoined for a single track on the third day. Highlights included a panel discussion titled “eVTOL: State of the Industry Now and Where it’s Going in the Future.” The session was moderated by Rex Alexander of Five-Alpha and included panelists Ife Ogunleye, Joby Aviation; Collin Russell, Lilium; Darshan “Dash” Divakaran, US Air Force Research Lab AFWERX; and Pedro Carleial, Archer Aviation.
Plans are already underway for future editions of the VAST Global Conference.
The Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST) is a global collaborative effort to reduce accidents in the rotorcraft industry. Any organization, business, or individual that supports aviation safety can be a part of the team. The VAST mission is to continuously improve the community’s safety culture and operational performance through harmonization, coordination, and implementation of global safety information, resources, and programs while supporting regional safety team data that promotes vertical flight’s societal contributions.
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