The National Transportation Safety Board is concerned about an unacceptably high number of helicopter crashes in the last 10 years. More than 500 people have died in 1,600 helicopter crashes since 2004 alone. Now, they are voicing those concerns and asking the helicopter industry to use extra care when inspecting and repairing helicopters. They have also requested that helicopter pilots spend more time training than in the past.
These recent safety concerns were only enhanced after the most recent fiery helicopter crash occurred in downtown Seattle on Tuesday, March 18th. Seattle’s mayor himself has even said that they city needs to reexamine the regulations concerning the helipads.
The horrific Seattle helicopter crash occurred just as the KOMO-TV news chopper took off from the helipad. The helicopter started spinning and sputtered to the ground, killing the pilot and a photojournalist onboard and severely burning a driver in a vehicle below. The helicopter that crashed was an 11-year-old Eurocopter AS350 B2 that was only being used as a replacement for the standard one they used fulltime. An investigation is currently underway to determine the exact cause of the crash.
Helicopter crashes pose serious risks to both occupants of the helicopter, as well as those on the ground below. As more and more news teams, hospitals, and organizations use helicopters in their day-to-day business, crashes will continue to escalate. To make matters worse, these helicopters are often used to to photograph concerts, sporting events, and festivals, and transport critically injured accident victims to nearby hospitals. As a result, they are flying over large crowds—increasing the risk for serious injury to numerous individuals.
While the Seattle helicopter crash was tragic, the mayor reminded everyone that it could have been much, much worse. While the accident occurred just across from popular tourist attractions, such as the Space Needle and music museum, it occurred in the early morning hours when there was not a lot of public activity.