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FAASTeam Notice
Type: Helicopter Operations
Notice Date: Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Notice Number: NOTC1829
Recent Fatal Helicopter Accidents
This posting will be removed on
Saturday, June 4, 2022

U.S. Helicopter Community

As you may have read in various safety publications, the seven month trend for U.S. helicopter safety with regard to fatal accidents had been trending in the right direction. From late August 2020 through mid-April 2021, the U.S. averaged 39 days between fatal helicopter accidents. This included a stretch of three consecutive fatal accident free months for the first time ever, as well as a record 107 fatal accident free days from August 25 through December 9, 2020.

This trend changed abruptly beginning April 22, 2021. Within an 11 day period including the first weekend of May, four fatal helicopter accidents occurred, including one U.S. registered helicopter operating in Mexico. To put this in perspective, there had been three total fatal accidents in the previous 111 days of 2021. The estimated fatal accident rate for April was over 1 per 100,000 flight hours, far above the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team’s (USHST’s) target for a five year average fatal accident rate not exceeding 0.55 per 100,000 flight hours.

It is too early to determine if there was a particular risk area common across the four events. The investigations are still in the early stages and preliminary information is limited. We do know that these events covered the spectrum of engine installations, from reciprocating to single turbine to twin turbine. We also know that if these events are consistent with past U.S. fatal accident history, 50%-60% of them will involve one of the following three aviation occurrence categories: loss of control – inflight, unintended flight in IMC, or low altitude operations where the helicopter struck an object. Past history also tells us that when an object is struck, most often it is some kind of wire.

We urge you to visit or to revisit the resources and recommended practices available at the USHST’s website, https://ushst.org. Included on the site are the helicopter safety enhancements developed by the USHST to mitigate risks in the three previously mentioned categories that have historically accounted for the highest percentage of fatal accidents. You may also register for the next free USHST webinar that will be held on May 19, 2021 or watch one of the recordings from the USHST’s recent webinars.

The U.S. helicopter community was gaining safety momentum prior to the tragic events in late April and early May. The warm weather months have returned and many helicopter industry sectors will soon be hitting full stride. As a community, let’s get safety back on track as we start the summer. Think ahead, know the risks, and choose to be safe.

POC for this Notice is:

Lee Roskop, Safety Risk Management Section, AIR-633, 817-222-5337,
lee.roskop@faa.gov