Accidents suggest helicopter safety needs 'critical look'

October 31, 2012

An industry-government coalition is calling for renewed focus on helicopter safety following a series of accidents in which seven occupants perished during an eight-day period in October.

Investigations are in progress, but the four between Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 “reflect a need for the private helicopter pilot and helicopter community to take a critical look at its risk mitigation efforts and safety practices,” said the International Helicopter Safety Team.

“One out of every five rotorcraft accidents occurs during ‘routine’ general aviation/private flying, and another one out of five accidents occurs during instruction flights,” the organization said in a news release as it works to reduce a “stubbornly persistent” helicopter accident rate.

The apparently routine nature of the flights that resulted in the accidents teaches a “grim lesson” about the need for greater risk assessment, said the organization. The accidents IHST cited included two crashes in Pennsylvania, one in Louisiana, and another in Texas.

IHST is currently co-chaired by Kim Smith, manager of the FAA’s Rotorcraft Directorate, and Matthew S. Zuccaro, president of Helicopter Association International, and was formed as a response to a call for action by participants in the 2005 International Helicopter Safety Symposium to improve the helicopter safety record.

Since IHST was established at the symposium held in Montreal in September 2005, it has taken on the “aggressive goal” of reducing the worldwide civil helicopter accident rate by 80 percent over 10 years, the organization said.