Safety

Rash of Fatal Crashes Prompts Broad Warning By Helicopter Safety Advocates

By Amy Kluber | July 12, 2018

Helicopter pilot checking the flight manual before a take off. Helicopter is on the ground with bright sunlight.

File photo

Sunday's helicopter crash in Williamsburg, Virginia, marked the latest incident in what the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) is calling "the worst 10-day stretch of fatal accidents [in the U.S.] since late 2012." It's now calling on the helicopter community to remember important safeguards before flying.

In an open letter to the U.S. helicopter community distributed Thursday, the team refers to the four fatal accidents that occurred from June 29 to July 8 in Texas, Puerto Rico, Indiana and Virginia. Each caused one fatality.

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"Within the 50 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, four fatal helicopter accidents and four fatalities occurred from June 29 to July 8, 2018, a pace of nearly one fatal accident every other day," the letter reads. "Investigations take time, so the underlying cause of each case will not be known for some time.  However, there is one thing we know with certainty.  None of the individuals involved in these tragic events woke up that morning thinking this would be their last helicopter flight.  The series of fatal helicopter accidents is a reminder to our community.  There is sometimes a fine line between a flight that ends uneventfully and one that ends disastrously."

The team noted a similar trend in 2012 in which five fatal helicopter accidents occurred in California, Texas, Florida, Michigan and Illinois from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.

The letter lists five reminders for flying helicopters: review basic procedures, think through what actions you would take for various emergencies, consider how summer temperatures affect performance and aircraft limitations, consider factors that may build up cumulative fatigue and practice real-time risk management.

"As a community, let's all do our part to ensure the 10-day surge in fatal helicopter accidents is an anomaly and does not stretch into a long-term trend," the letter concluded.

In the most recent accident last weekend, a Robinson Helicopter R44 crashed into an apartment building in Williamsburg, Virginia. The pilot and one apartment resident were killed.

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