Helicopter Crashworthiness Considerations

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Helicopter Crashworthiness Considerations

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento helicopter crash lawyer. Crashworthiness is one of the many considerations when inspectors certify a helicopter for flight. This has important implications for passengers if a crash later occurs.

What does “crashworthiness” mean?

Crashworthiness refers to the ability of passengers to survive a crash in a specific aircraft. Commercial helicopters and any other helicopters used to transport passengers are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to maintain a high level of crashworthiness.

What defines crashworthiness?

Crashworthiness determinations are based on a variety of factors. To be certified as crashworthy, the helicopter must have a structure that will withstand heavy forces. This requirement exists to ensure that passengers onboard the aircraft have sufficient space during a crash and are not be crushed within the wreckage.

Helicopters must also have a passenger restraint system that adequately protects passengers, much like a seatbelt system in cars. Passengers’ ability to survive the crash is another key concern that includes both the structure and the restraint system.

The crash load distribution is perhaps the most complicated aspect of crashworthiness determinations. It looks at the forces experienced by humans during a crash and makes sure it is within the survivable range.

Key Element of Helicopter Crashworthiness

One of the key elements that enhances helicopter crashworthiness is the rubber bladder within the fuel tank of most modern helicopter. This bladder seals the fuel within it in the event that an object pierces the helicopter’s fuel tank.

This bladder is key to preventing fires during and after a crash. Before the invention of the bladder in the 1970s, most fatalities in helicopter accidents were from fires after the fact. By preventing the leakage of fuel during and after an accident, this bladder greatly reduces the rate of fatalities in helicopter accidents and contributes to its overall crashworthiness.

Crashworthiness Investigations

Crashworthiness is one of the key areas of investigation in the aftermath of a helicopter crash. Investigators examine the fuselage deformation, the ground scars, seating, restraints, and victim injuries to determine if the aircraft met its crashworthiness standards. This allows the investigating agency to send adequate reports to the rightly involved organizations.

The damage to the fuselage and the damage to the ground, also known as ground scars, help investigators determine the speed at which the helicopter struck the ground. This is then used to determine the force that the victims experience during a crash.

Injuries Resulting From Differences in Crashworthiness

If the investigation finds that the seating and restraints properly hold, the injuries are likely to be less serious as long as the forces were within acceptable levels. However, if any one factor failed, the injuries sustained will likely range from serious to fatal as the aircraft lacked crashworthiness.

Common injuries in helicopter accidents where everything functions properly include severe cervical sprains or spine fractures, cardiac contusions resulting from the seatbelt, and broken arms and fractured legs.

Victims in crashes where parts fail, however, often sustain spinal cord trauma, brain injury, and extensive internal injuries. In some of these cases, these injuries are fatal.

These injuries all depend, however, on the victims’ tolerance to trauma. This can include factors like age, sex, weight, and general physical health.

California Helicopter Crash Attorney

I’m Ed Smith and I am a Sacramento helicopter crash lawyer. If you,  or a loved one has been injured in a helicopter accident, especially one resulting from inadequate crashworthiness, I welcome your call at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach me toll-free at (800) 404-5400.

I have been practicing personal injury and wrongful death law for 34 years. During this time, I have always sought to identify all of the responsible parties.

You can see my history of these:

View my Past Verdicts and Settlements page.

I am also an injury lawyer inducted into the Million Dollar Advocates Forum(916) 921-6400. 

Image Source: By Jackie – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=379207

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Rotorcraft Safety Manual

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