Babcock Scandinavian Air Ambulance (Babcock SAA) is the market leader in HEMS and air ambulance services in the Nordics. Because of their high internal and customer requirements, and given their challenging operating environment, the company partnered with Coptersafety for pilot training.
When achieving top quality is only the starting point
Babcock SAA has high operational standards. Customer requirements combined with tight regulations for both the aviation and healthcare services demand that Babcock SAA goes the extra mile in its training strategy. “An example of this is clear in our training and competence development — for which aviation regulations give a good basis. Also, at Babcock, we follow stringent group standards. However, at the end of the day it is up to our team of instructors to create programs that are most useful for our pilots”, says Lauri Pukkinen, COO Finland of Babcock Scandinavian Air Ambulance.
Babcock SAA’s customers also have high expectations. The provided service quality must be excellent across all areas — as observed in regular audits and day-to-day operations. This all means that Babcock SAA aims for high-quality training as one of its key priorities.
“We chose Coptersafety for their uncompromised customer focus, world-class simulator offering and ambitious attitude towards continuous improvement and innovation. We also share their obsession with improving the helicopter pilot profession and safety. The stereotypical helicopter pilot is working out in the bushes in his or her way. This is the exact opposite of what Coptersafety thrives for. We share their vision on this.” Another contributing factor was Coptersafety’s sole focus on pilot training, which makes it their core competence”, Lauri Pukkinen states.
Being prepared to save lives
At the moment, Babcock SAA has among the most highly trained and experienced 30 helicopter pilots in Finland. Indeed, training covers around 30 percent of each pilot’s flying hours, and training is the only time during which all the employees are brought together to develop their competence and share ideas and knowledge. But the nature of mission-critical services also makes top training essential.
First, a pilot might embark on a mission quite rarely, especially during December and January, when icing conditions often prevent flying — and each mission is unique. Flying can be very challenging under unpredictable conditions — in HEMS; there is little advance information about where to land and the circumstances at the scene. This means all flight-specific factors need to be well considered on the spot and in real time. This requires a lot of experience and confidence from pilots.
In the midst of the unique and unexpected mission situation, certain operation and flight practices need to be common and standard. For example, standard SOPs for the whole crew increase efficiency and safety, as it removes the need to “reinvent the wheel” for how to act in each situation. This is another reason why standardized training is a key.
“We understand our role in the larger healthcare system. We meet patients when they are having the worst days of their lives. People need to trust that their loved ones are taken care of and that there is always hope. This is one of the drivers of our determination to continuously develop our performance and safety culture. And this is not only limited to developing flying skills, but more of an overall approach to continuous training, one that boosts pilot confidence, competence, and the overall ability to embark on a mission when conditions are difficult, but help is needed”, Lauri Pukkinen continues.
Simulator training for increased standardization, safety, and efficiency
Coptersafety and Babcock SAA started co-operation at the end of 2017. Babcock SAA uses Coptersafety’s H145 simulator to implement Babcock’s training concept. But the co-operation also had very concrete business drivers. Babcock SAA aimed to increase operational efficiency, productivity, and financial profitability.
“Efficiency is a key enabler for providing high-quality service. Safety and efficiency come from training. For us, it is imperative to have the ability to customize the training scenarios for our demanding and unique needs. With Coptersafety’s high-quality training simulators, we can create realistic training conditions based on real-life situations — this equips our instructors to really train and test our pilots. Coptersafety’s simulators allow training in extreme conditions as well, such as snowstorms, where training on a real helicopter is not an option. Training can be designed in a way that enables mistakes that can happen in real situations to also occur in training phases — so pilots are even more prepared for possible problems and learn how to solve them.”, Lauri Pukkinen says.
“Pilot training with Coptersafety also provide us with reliability and predictability. Our trainers can plan our simulator training well in advance, and if needed, also get support for the actual training syllabus development”
One of the priorities for Babcock SAA is that simulator training with Coptersafety allows for better standardization of training — which is vital for both the trainers and the pilots. Every pilot trains in the same way and they are evaluated according to the same principles. In this way, Babcock SAA’s experienced instructors and examiners can get the most impact from their valuable time.
“Pilot training with Coptersafety also provide us with reliability and predictability. Our trainers can plan our simulator training well in advance, and if needed, also get support for the actual training syllabus development”, Pukkinen states.
“Pilot’s work is demanding. Through Coptersafety, we can also offer high-quality premises, where our pilots also have space and comfort to meet and exchange thoughts. One of the key successes in training is the co-operation between trainers and pilots, and we want to offer a premium setting for this. The training simulator and the training premises are first and foremost designed to ensure that our instructors and trainers to succeed in their jobs. This work, and training especially, is teamwork at its core,” Pukkinen continues.
At the end of the day, pilot training is about getting pilots to perform their jobs safely — consistently. In many situations, HEMS pilots have zero margins for error. This is where cutting-edge training — with state-of-the-art simulators and talented instructors — makes a difference. By utilizing a broad range of flying conditions and feedback data from the training sessions, instructors and pilots can get the most out of the training investment Babcock SAA and other leading operators are making every year.
Babcock Group’s Aviation arm provides HEMS, SAR, offshore, and onshore helicopter services, and limitary training services, in Europe and globally. In Scandinavia, it operates under the name of Babcock Scandinavian Air Ambulance (Babcock SAA). Just within the Nordics alone, Babcock provides help for tens of thousands of patients each year.