Safety Analysis: Most Helicopter Accidents Occurring in U.S. West and South

Safety Analysis: Most Helicopter Accidents Occurring in U.S. West and South

13-May-2014 Source: IHST

As part of its ongoing accident analysis, the United States Helicopter Safety Team ( has categorized U.S. civil helicopter data by U.S. state for the period of 2008 through 2013.  It continues to see the West and the South as ground zero for the majority of accidents.  Fatal accidents, for the most part, also follow this western and southern trend.


Half of All Accidents in Just Eight States

During the six-year period, there were 857 civil helicopter accidents in the U.S.  The top eight states accounted for 426 of these accidents, or half of the total.

As for accidents that resulted in fatalities, a total of 155 were recorded across the country.  Sixty-five of the fatal accidents occurred in the top eight states, or 42 percent of the total.  The most prevalent activities being conducted when these fatal accidents occurred in these eight states were: Private Flying (12 fatal accidents), Repositioning/RTB (10 fatal accidents), Passenger/Cargo Flight (9 fatal accidents), Aerial Observation (8 fatal accidents), Emergency Medical Services (6 fatal accidents).

Milder year-round weather in most of these states allows for more helicopter operations and as a consequence, more operations can result in more risk and more accidents.  These states also may include more residents who have their own private helicopter.

Fatalities During Routine Operations

Regardless of the demographics and geography, there is a troubling trend in the fatal accident data.  Many of the activities occurring during the flight were very routine and not inherently dangerous.  Too many accidents happened during private flights, simple repositioning operations, and during routine aerial observation flights.  This highlights the fact that preparation and risk assessments need to be performed for EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT, even the most routine ones.

Whether a pilot is planning to fly across Texas or around Rhode Island, proper preparation and a careful and prudent attitude can be lifesaving actions.  The USHST urges pilots to pay special attention to weather and visibility issues and to all possible operational risks, even during the most routine flights in sunny California or above the coastline of Florida.

More Accident Reductions Needed

The USHST and the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) promote safety and work to reduce accidents.  The IHST organization was formed in 2005 to lead a government and industry cooperative effort to address factors that were affecting an unacceptable helicopter accident rate.

Prior to 2006, the number of worldwide civil helicopter accidents was rising at a rate of 2.5 percent per year.  Since 2006, the number of accidents worldwide has been decreasing by an annual rate of 2 percent.

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