Safety Beyond Safety with Boost Systems
From New Zealand to China, Canada and beyond, Boost Human External Cargo Systems (HEC) has a global presence - their product offering gives aviators the opportunity to improve and effectively work safely in long line work. Initially founded with the intent of use for rescue missions, they now see their product extending into other verticals, including aerial firefighting, law enforcement, and utility work.
We spoke with Jeff Yarnold, Vice President of Operations for Boost Systems, about his journey thus far, his background in mountain helicopter rescue services, and industry shifts and changes, he’s seeing in aviation.
Sourcing for Safety
Through Yarnold’s vast experience in mountain rescue (20+years and counting!), he’s seen a shift in the industry and tightening in the requirements from regulators such as Transport Canada, and the Federal Aviation Administration, for safer equipment in HEC operations.
In the 80s and 90s, HEC was used for emergency purposes only. Equipment sourced, however, was still unable to meet requirements, so he teamed up with Derek Thomas to disrupt the status quo and create, develop, and implement a product that would see them reach aviators on a global scale.
Boost Systems, based in North Vancouver, was founded in 2013 to provide rescue, industry and public safety teams with the most advanced, fully-certified, safe and reliable Human External Cargo (HEC) Systems. Their solution is a dual hook system on an aircraft that is approved for the carriage of human cargo.
Now there is higher demand in other verticals - it’s not just used for rescue purposes, it has now extended into wildfire, law enforcement, and utility industries.
“I love introducing this tool to people that have never used it in the past.”
Safety as a Service
Yarnold recognised the shift in the way HEC systems were being used over time, which is when the focus started shifting from not only providing a safe solution, but also, working alongside regulators and having these meet stricter requirements and industry standards.
“There were issues in the equipment we've been traditionally using, and all of a sudden they were no longer valid, or approved through Transport Canada, so we went in search for other equipment that we could bring in and use - even that was almost impossible!”
Their solution is well supported in the industry, including leaders such as Bell, Airbus, and MD Helicopters. Although there is a lot of HEC work being performed with single engine aircraft, Boost sees a shift toward companies with twin engine aircraft.
“There's growth that's happened over the last 10-15 years. I think that's where the regulators stepped in and said ‘well, wait a minute this is no longer an emergency tool, people are using this to go to work on a daily basis.’ And so that's where we basically started approving our hooks and mounting systems to put them on various different aircraft.”
The way Yarnold sees Boost HEC being used worldwide never gets old. “It's sort of mind blowing, we actually are flying underneath the helicopter, at 60 knots, on a 200 ft long line in the mountains.”
Developments Through Limitations
As the team has been restricted with travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are limited as to how much in-person training programs they are able to provide and implement.
“Our travel has been virtually locked down- essentially we've been clamped down for almost two years. We were running quite a large training program in China, right when COVID hit, working on an energised hoist programme when right in the middle of it, - boom!” However, this has not stopped the team from making traction in development.
“We've been doing a lot of new development projects so I think we've made good use of our time in working on some new STC’s and developing our equipment onto different platforms and new industries.”
Pilot to Pilot
Yarnold’s work in mountain rescue did not commence via the pilot route, in fact, his experience came from a combination of roles, including a long line rescue specialist, Air Operations Coordinator, Emergency Medical Responder, and spent some time as a SAR Manager as well!
After travelling the world implementing Boost kits and training services to other companies (pre-Covid), Yarnold learned from other pilots, first-hand, about how their product benefits them and the varying amount of work that is being undertaken globally.
“We have [both] been flying commercial helicopters for the last four years. We're spoiled because they all made it look so easy that I actually thought that it might be easy. I was wrong, you know, so it's funny because of course, we provide training to all these different operators, and users, and to have that perspective now from the pilots point of view it's just been incredibly valuable to us in our business.”
While teams are flying through mountainous terrain, and through structures that need precision, accuracy and stability, the entire team needs safety, while providing services at a safe and operational level.
“Flying in remote locations means the team needs to be able to communicate with ground teams. Spidertracks is used as a safety net and communications tool. Everyone knows exactly what is going on.”
Yarnold knows the importance of safety, which is why he’s implemented the system as a safety net.
“If something goes wrong, we need to be able to communicate that. Having the ability to send updates to the pilot, and see real-time updates when following flights - it’s phenomenal.”