Robinson instrument panel
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has compiled a dossier to present to European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in pursuit of its campaign for a review of the Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) for five hours instrument familiarisation training for ab initio helicopter pilots.

The prime document in the dossier is an analysis by accident investigator Richard Mornington-Sanford of the counter-productive effects of instrument training, which he believes has led to a major increase in accidents involving continued Visual flight rules (VFR) into Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).

It includes an analysis of the physiological effects of IMC on pilots by John Stewart-Smith a former military instructor who researched his paper with the help of Central Flying School, and letters of support for Mr Mornington-Sanford's position from experienced helicopter pilots including FIE Derek Jones. It carries a letter of support from the Helicopter Club of Great Britain, and from the only helicopter pilot in the House of Commons, Nigel Griffiths MP.

The dossier also includes copies of AAIB reports, including that on motorcycle champion Steve Hislop, who crashed in IMC with 90 hours total flying experience.

A covering letter from AOPA's Martin Robinson points out that since instrument familiarisation training was introduced five years ago, accidents caused by continued VFR flight into IMC have risen from 16 percent of the total to 46 percent. The situation is exacerbated by over-reliance on GPS, which increases pilot confidence by removing many of the burdens of navigation in poor visibility, but the primary cause of fatal accidents is a misplaced belief among low-time helicopter pilots that they can get away with instrument flying.

The request for a review is being submitted to EASA rather than the JAA because the new authority is shortly to assume responsibility for flight crew licensing. The dossier is to be presented to EASA's head of rulemaking Claude Probst next month.

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