Aviation Accidents

Personal Helicopter Operations: Highest Accident Rates

By August 26, 2019 No Comments

Following a deadly helicopter crash in late 2018, a prominent U.S. Senator warned tourists from taking personal helicopter trips until further investigations are performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). And according to a recent study evaluating helicopter accidents in the nation, people may want to heed the senator’s warning. 

According to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST), personal/private helicopter operations posted the worst accident rates in the country from 2008 to 2018, along with commercial, aerial application and utilities/construction operations. The USHST largely blamed the high accidents on risk factors involving low-altitude operations, flight near wires, and a higher number of private helicopters with less experienced pilots. 

A recent study by FAA claimed the rate of accidents of Helicopter Emergency Management Service (HEMS) accidents was 3.9 per 100,000 flight hours. That same study showed that for personal/private helicopter flights, the rate was 29.6 accidents for the same number of flight hours. This shows that accidents for personal/private helicopter operations were over 7 times higher than HMES flights!

According to the FAA, the majority of these accidents were due to loss of control by the pilot, followed by autorotation, system failure, striking an object, and loss of fuel. Moreover, 90% of these accidents were because of “pilot judgment & action”. 

During the decade-long study performed by USHST referenced above, civil helicopter pilots flew more than 31 million flight hours and experienced 1,298 total accidents; 209 resulting in fatalities. And while personal/private flying encompassed merely 3% of total hours flying, it contributed to 22% of all accidents. 

The studies by the FAA and USHST reveal startling statistics with regard to the increased risk of personal/private helicopter operations. 

As one can imagine, with the ability of helicopters to provide customers with breathtaking views from the sky their popularity is increasing in the tourism market. However, the significantly higher number of accidents passengers face when in the care of private helicopter companies should be considered before such an excursion is booked. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a personal or private helicopter accident, it’s important to have an experienced and qualified attorney to help you navigate the legal process and ensure your rights are protected.