Helicopter Operations and Associated Risks

Helicopter Operations and Associated Risks

Helicopter Operations and Associated Risks

I’m Ed Smith, a California helicopter crash lawyer. Helicopters are used for a variety of functions in California, but some of these types of operations carry greater risks of accident than others.

Common Uses of Helicopters

Helicopters are perhaps used most frequently by emergency services for search and rescue, police operations, and medical emergencies. Many of us are also familiar with news footage from helicopters used by local news stations like KCRA 3. Helicopters are also used in construction projects in rural areas and for inspecting utility lines.

Other common types of operations include air tours, flight training, and leisure flights. These areas of helicopter operations are where most risks arise for the general population.

Risk of Accidents on Air Tours

Helicopters are frequently used in sight-seeing tours. In California, these tours offer bird’s eye views of the San Francisco Bay, Napa and Sonoma wine country, Lake Tahoe, and a variety of other stunning California views.

These flights are often fraught with problems, though, due to poor maintenance of aircrafts and the varied terrain over which they fly. This creates diverse flight conditions that sometimes result in traumatic injuries, including serious burns or death to passengers.

Recent California Helicopter Tour Accident

One such accident happened a little more than a month ago on 5 May in Santa Barbara when a tour helicopter crashed carrying two passengers. Both passengers and the pilot were able to escape the aircraft before it caught fire, but all three people sustained moderate injuries. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident.

Risk of Accidents During Helicopter Pilot Training

Accidents are extremely common during training flights due to the inexperience of the pilot and the nature of the controls. Pilot inexperience often leads to the helicopter hitting powerlines or other objects on the ground during flight. Additionally, new pilots have a tendency to misjudge the landing zone, resulting in minor crashes.

The controls used in many training helicopters also contribute to the higher rate of accidents because there is a brief moment when no one is in control of the aircraft while the instructor transfers the controls to the student (and vice versa). This brief moment can lead to catastrophe.

Recent Student Helicopter Pilot Accident

Earlier this year a student pilot’s inexperience resulted in a crash in Riverside. On 17 March, a student pilot on his first solo miscalculated the amount force when landing. As a result, the helicopter struck the ground at a high rate of speed, driving the aircraft onto its tail and damaging the aircraft. No one was injured in this accident.

Risk of Accidents During Leisure Flights

The risk of accidents during leisure flights is also high, primarily because of the same pilot inexperience described above. Recreational pilots do not have the same flight hours requirement to be licensed, so they tend to be more inexperienced than commercial pilots. They are therefore often unprepared to handle unsteady or emergency conditions which can result in a crash.

Additionally, many leisure aircraft are not regularly serviced as they do not face the same maintenance requirements as commercial helicopters. This union of inexperience and poor maintenance can have fatal results.

Risks in Other Helicopter Operations

While accidents certainly happen in the course of other types of helicopter operations, they rarely have more than one victim (the pilot). Helicopters used in emergency operations are known to regularly crash, but this again rarely impacts the general populace.

Related Articles by Ed Smith ~

California Helicopter Accident Attorney & Personal Injury Lawyers

I’m Ed Smith and I am a California helicopter crash lawyer. If you, or a loved one has been involved in a helicopter accident during any kind of operation, please call me at (916) 921-6400, or if you are calling long distance reach me free of charge at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

I have been practicing personal injury law for 34 years.

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See some of the Past Verdicts and Settlements of our injury lawyers.

I am an injury lawyer in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum(916) 921-6400.  The forum represents a selection of top rated United States attorneys who have obtained million dollar settlements and verdicts.


Air tour accident:

Student pilot accident:

Photo Attribution: © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

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