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Over the past 30 years, Hillsboro Aviation Inc. has been a key player in the general aviation industry. From our position as the second largest helicopter school in the U.S. and one of the largest combined airplane and helicopter schools in the country to the holder of FAR 133, 135, 137, 141 and 145 FAA certificates, we are a complex and diverse company. In addition to flying over 55,000 hours per year, both in the U.S. and abroad, Hillsboro Aviation is the number one helicopter sales organization in the U.S. and the leading seller of light airplanes in the northwestern U.S. Based at the Hillsboro and Troutdale Airports near Portland, OR, our maintenance and avionics shops are factory service centers for Bell, Robinson and Cessna that support the needs of our own fleet and also offer complete installation and maintenance services to our broad reach of international customers and their aircraft.
The complexity and breadth of our operation requires a persistent focus on safety. Since 1980, Hillsboro Aviation has flown 900,000 flight hours which equates to over 80 million flight miles, millions of take offs and landings and millions of maintenance events. We fly approximately 2000 percent more than our local competitors, so naturally our approach to safety is on a different scale. It must encompass the entire scope of our business from charter operations to maintenance to flight training. Each piece is critical to the overall safety of our organization.
In our industry, safety is paramount making it essential to continually examine systems, policies and procedures to ensure the highest standard. We work closely with various aviation organizations, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Helicopter Association International (HAI) and the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) to improve safety industry wide.
The central element of Hillsboro Aviation’s safety program is our Safety Management System (SMS). Hillsboro Aviation is one of the first companies in general aviation to fully implement SMS on this scale. Our SMS is modeled after the system required by the FAA for the airline industry. In fact this system is so revolutionary for a company in our segment of the aviation business that an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University master’s degree candidate in safety science came to Hillsboro Aviation to study our SMS system. The goal was to help other organizations improve their safety tracking programs by emulating our system industry wide.
Our online SMS reporting system allows for incident/hazard reporting anytime, anywhere. Incident/hazard reports entered online are instantly emailed to the responsible managers so that immediate action can be taken. All reports must be filed within 24 hours of the event’s occurrence and an initial corrective action plan must be developed by the safety manager within 10 days. The safety manager and general manager have final sign-off that a report has been satisfactorily addressed. Corrective active plans are developed as necessary to improve policies and procedures.
In addition to our SMS, we also take the following steps to ensure that all of our operations meet the highest standard of safety and ensure Hillsboro Aviation has a safety-centered culture. These steps include:
- Custom designed incident reporting software which communicates, tracks and analyzes all reported occurrences in real time
- Comprehensive structure of departmental safety managers who develop corrective action plans for reported incidents
- Recurring U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) audits
- U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) audits
- Yearly FAA 135 pilot training with Bell Helicopter Training Academy instructors and maintenance training at the Bell Helicopter Training Academy
- Bell, Robinson and Cessna factory-training schools for pilots and maintenance technicians
- Pilot seminars for operations in the wire environment
- GPS-based aircraft tracking system with internet monitoring capabilities
- Flight tracking through our dispatch center and air traffic control
- Internal safety notice system which relays vital safety information to all pilots and staff
- Weekly pilot meetings devoted to safety ensure that all flight instructors receive critical safety information and discuss relevant safety issues
- Weekly group ground class for students featuring safety-related topics and presentations
- Executive-level oversight and involvement in all safety-related discussions and meetings
- Monthly Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team (FAAST) seminars on safety-related topics which are open to all members of the local aviation community
- Open communication with Hillsboro Airport tower and Portland TRACON to ensure better coordination and improve the safety of IFR and VFR operations
- Bicycle safety training courses with Hillsboro Police Department
- Fire extinguisher training with Hillsboro Fire Department
As a leader and innovator in the general aviation industry, Hillsboro Aviation has always taken safety seriously. During our busy season, Hillsboro Aviation flies the equivalent of traveling more than one time around the circumference of the Earth each day. “With operations as diverse and busy as ours, safety is always our first priority. We are not perfect, no company is. However, we continue to be relentless in the pursuit of our goal to offer the safest and highest quality aviation products and services through continued improvement of our safety-centered culture. This is our primary focus everyday and that will never change,” said Jon Hay, Hillsboro Aviation’s general manager.