Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Mark A. Friend, Ed.D.

First Committee Member

Bruce A. Conway, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Irwin Price, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Cass D. Howell, Ph.D.


This dissertation provided a method of estimating the potential return on investment (ROI) that could be achieved if operators were to adopt the readily available controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) avoidance technology more broadly. Previous research explored the costs and benefits of different safety initiatives but did not evaluate from an operators’ perspective. For the operators, a private ROI that excludes societal costs and benefits was therefore considered the suitable metric. For the rotorcraft industry, the ROI estimation methodology was not readily available, and this study sought to fill that gap. The purpose of this study was to estimate the potential ROI by determining the costs associated with the outcomes of CFIT-accidents, the costs of adopting the technology, the current accident rate, the benefits expressed as costs avoided through a reduction in the number of accidents, and application of the appropriate ROI formula.

The dissertation was conducted as a mixed method study that used qualitative data from historical CFIT-related accident reports to identify the accident outcomes and estimate the associated accident costs plus the available quantitative data to estimate the CFIT-avoidance technology adoption costs. The accident cost categories were based on categories used in airline research and modified for the rotorcraft industry. Using the formula, ROI = Net benefits divided by safety technology adoption costs, ROI values were generated in multiple iterations of the Monte Carlo simulation. The net benefits were evaluated as the difference between the potential accident costs avoided with a reduction in CFIT accidents and the technology adoption costs.

The simulation results for the three rotorcraft categories showed that the turbinesingle would experience the highest ROI, followed by the piston category and the twinturbines. When all rotorcraft categories were considered, the ROI was positive but could turn negative if the technology adoption costs grew by a factor of more than three. The broad range in the ROI values for both the piston and single-turbine categories were largely driven by the high variation of the individual cost categories, especially the direct costs: occupant death and injuries, aircraft damage, and leasing costs. From the results of the study, it was recommended that CFIT-avoidance technology should be more broadly adopted by piston and single-turbine rotorcraft operators. For twin-turbines, the adoption should be evaluated against the impact of the regulatory changes for helicopter air ambulance (HAA) operations, which may reduce the number of accidents and generate a positive ROI before further action from operators. Future research should focus on validating the methodology by using it as a starting point for evaluating the ROI for safety initiatives that have already been implemented, whether technology or operational programs. The industry should also improve the methodology by defining or proposing better processes for estimating rotorcraft accident costs, especially indirect costs estimated to be the of the same magnitude as the direct costs. The rotorcraft industry should find ways to make costs data, such as accident investigation costs, more accessible in order to apply the ROI estimation methodology to achieve more accurate results.

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Aviation Commons