U.S. Helicopter Accident Numbers Continue to Decline

FAA and industry data show safety is improving.

Airbus EC225
Helicopter accidents have declined for the third year in a row, according to the FAA.Airbus Helicopters

Helicopter safety statistics released this week by the FAA indicate that years’ worth of hard work by the agency and a number of industry groups to improve operational safety are paying off. The agency reported that the raw accident rate, as well as the fatal accident rate in helicopters, recorded a downturn for the third year in a row.

There were 106 helicopter accidents in 2016, including 17 that resulted in fatalities. Those numbers represented a 12 percent decline when compared to 2015 and a 27 percent decrease when compared to 2013. The overall accident rate fell to 3.19 per 100,000 flight hours in 2016, compared to 3.67 accidents in 2015. Although the fatal accident rate did not decline by as large a margin, falling to 0.51 accidents per 100,000 flight hours last year from 0.52 in 2015, the rate is showing a significant improvement when measured over time. In 2014, the fatal accident rate stood at 0.65; in 2013 the rate stood at 1.02.

The FAA and the helicopter industry have worked together through groups like the International Helicopter Safety Team and the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team to prevent accidents using a number of proactive tactics including the promotion of a safety culture company by company, an agency policy that allows operators and manufacturers to install safety equipment through a streamlined and less expensive approval process, the use of cutting-edge safety technologies, collaborative rulemaking and the FAA-led three-day international rotorcraft safety conference.