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In the wake of a recent short-term surge in fatal accidents, the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) has issued an open letter to the U.S. helicopter community calling attention to the disturbing trend and reminding helicopter pilots, mechanics, operators and instructors of the need for enhanced vigilance.
The U.S. helicopter industry just endured the worst 10-day stretch of fatal accidents observed since late 2012, the USHST said in its open letter. 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.
“While investigations take time, the underlying cause of each case will not be known for some time,” the USHST said.
“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. There is sometimes a fine line between a flight that ends uneventfully and one that ends disastrously.”
In response to the recent fatal accidents, the USHST is encouraging members of the U.S. helicopter community to do their part to ensure the 10-day surge in fatal helicopter accidents is an anomaly and does not stretch into a long-term trend.
The USHST has offered the following safety recommendations to pilots:
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; and
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?”
Fatal accidents in 2018 within a 10-day period:
- June 29, 2018: Sterling City, Texas; aerial observation; Robinson R22; one fatality
- June 30, 2018: San Juan, Puerto Rico; personal/private; Bell 206B; one fatality
- July 6, 2018: Morristown, Indiana; aerial observation; Bell/Scott’s 47G-2; one fatality
- July 8, 2018: Williamsburg, Virginia; personal/private; Robinson R44; one fatality
The USHST has compared this with a similar trend from 2012:
- Nov. 25, 2012: Corona, California; personal/private’ Robinson R44; one fatality
- Nov. 27, 2012: Childress, Texas; utilities/construction; MDHI 369D; one fatality
- Nov. 30, 2012: Apollo Beach, Florida; personal/private; Robinson R22; one fatality
- Dec. 1, 2012: Walkerville, Michigan; personal/private; Bell/Scott’s 46G-2; one fatality
- Dec. 10, 2012: Rochelle, Illinois; air ambulance; Airbus BK117A-3; three fatalities