Helicopter Industry Sees Fewer Accidents

The United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST), a group made up of FAA and industry representatives, shared some good news this week regarding helicopter accident statistics. The group analyzed accident data during two three-year periods and found that the accident record has improved by 21 percent.

USHST compared accidents that occurred during the three-year period from 2009 through 2011 with the years 2000, 2001 and 2006. FAA public affairs officer Tony Molinaro said the earlier three-year period was from a baseline data analysis used by the International Helicopter Safety Team. The number of accidents dropped from 523 during that period to 415 in the years from 2009 to 2011.

While Molinaro said the record does not take into consideration any changes in the number of operations during the analyzed time periods, he believes that the reduction in the number of accidents is due to safety improvements, mainly greater adherence to safety management systems, improved maintenance practices and new developments in technology.

Great strides were seen in the firefighting, air tours and logging industries, which all recorded improvements by more than 2 percentage points each. However, there is still much work to be done in areas such as agriculture, training and personal flying, which saw increases in the number of accidents in the most recent three-year period. Molinaro said that accidents during training maneuvers such as autorotation could potentially be reduced by increased use of simulators in the training environment. Several low-cost helicopter simulators have been introduced just in the past few weeks from Redbird, Elite and X-copter.

In response to the recently launched "Land and Live" initiative, which the Helicopter Association International's president Matt Zuccaro announced at Heli-expo this year, the USHST released a safety bulletin called "Precautionary Landings" aimed at encouraging helicopter pilots to land when something goes wrong in the cockpit and take care of the issue once safely on the ground.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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