USHST Publishes Safety Letter After Recent Fatal Helicopter Accident

Industry experiences the worst run of fatal accidents in six years.

robinson r44
Two Robinson and two Bell helicopters were involved in the latest fatal crashes.Robinson

The U.S. helicopter community has seen a miserable couple of weeks for flight safety with the worst surge of fatal accidents in the past six years. Between June 29 and July 8, four fatal accidents occurred in regions of the mainland and Puerto Rico. Additionally, an air ambulance in Chicago crashed on July 8 while enroute to the University of Chicago Hospital with a patient and crew of three. All aboard were injured, but not fatally.

On June 29, a Robinson R-22 crashed in Sterling City, Texas killing the one person on board. On June 30, a Bell 206B claimed one life when it went down in San Juan. A Bell 47G-2 crashed on July 6 in Morristown Indiana killing one person, while another Robinson, this one an R-44 crashed, two days later in Williamsburg Virginia claiming another life.

In a letter to the helicopter community published last week, the United States Helicopter Safety Team said "it is appropriate timing for some straightforward reminders that can contribute to safe flying." The group urged others to help spread the word.

The letter said, “The U.S. helicopter industry just endured the worst ten-day stretch of fatal accidents observed since late 2012. 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. 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 that there is sometimes a fine line between a flight that ends uneventfully and one that ends disastrously.

We are still early in the summer with plenty of good flying weather in front of us. In the wake of this recent surge in fatal accidents, let us take some time to think through how we can make sure the rest of the summer is spent with enjoyment rather than grief.

  1. Review your basic procedures. The simple, mundane practices are often what keep us safe.
  2. Think through what actions you would take for various aircraft emergencies.
  3. Consider what effect summer temperatures will have on the performance and limitations of your aircraft.
  4. Contemplate what factors may be subtly building up your cumulative fatigue. Days in the summer are long, often resulting in more activity and less sleep.
  5. Practice real time risk management, even with small decisions. Make a habit of mentally asking yourself, "What could go wrong with what I'm doing right now? What could I do to make sure the worst case scenario doesn't kill me?"

As a community, let’s all do our part to ensure the ten-day surge in fatal helicopter accidents is an anomaly and does not stretch into a long-term trend. Fly safe today.”