Helicopters flying for the personal/private industry sectors experience the most accidents per flight hours, according to a new report from the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team.
The team compiled 10 years of data for helicopter operations since January 2009 and compared the share of flight hours of every industry type with the percentage share of total accidents and fatal accidents.
During this period, U.S. civil helicopters flew more than 31 million flight hours and experienced 1,298 total accidents and 209 fatal accidents, the organization said in a statement.
"At the top of the list, air ambulance helicopters fly about 16 percent of all the industry’s hours, so it would be expected that they also would experience about 16 percent of the accidents. However, this is not the case," the Safety Team said in its statement. "Only 7 percent of helicopter accidents involve an air ambulance mission, resulting in a positive variance of nine points."
The team also looked at fatal accidents. Instructional flying, aerial observation and air ambulance operations have higher fatality rates, but with lower-than-expected numbers, the team said.
"Note that air ambulance stays in the top tier, but does fall from first to the sixth position. This may be because their missions are sometimes carried out in poor weather or in challenging landing areas where the risk of a serious accident is higher," the report noted.
The industry sectors with more-than-expected fatal accidents include commercial, aerial application, utilities/construction and personal/private flying.