The phrase, “Let’s be careful out there,” takes on added meaning during the month of July as it tops all other months for fatal helicopter accidents. A decade’s worth of data compiled by the United States Helicopter Safety Team (www.USHST.org) shows that an average of three to four fatal civil helicopter accidents in the United States (or 13 percent of the total) occur during this month. July also surpasses all other months for total accidents with an average of 20 occurring each year.
The Peak of the Summer is a Deadly Time
As the chart shows, Except for 2005 and 2006, the number of fatal accidents in July always surpasses the average number of fatal accidents during the other 11 months of the year. This fact is due in part because July is a peak summer month in the United States with more helicopter operations occurring during the warm weather. However, approximately 30 percent more accidents occur during July compared to the warm months of June, August, or September, and 25 percent more fatal accidents occur during July compared to June, August and September.
The reasons for the fatal accidents during the month of July are varied, but three areas stand out:
- Impacts with wires or trees
- Mechanical problems
- Poor weather
More than 50 percent of fatal accidents during the past decade of Julys stem from these three causes. Regardless of the cause, when the calendar flips over to July 1st, our data is telling us that helicopter pilots need to be especially cautious. Proper preparation along with a careful and prudent attitude will be lifesaving actions. We want to see everyone alive and well on Aug. 1st.
More Accident Reductions Needed
The USHST and the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) promote safety and work to reduce accidents. The IHST organization was formed in 2005 to lead a government and industry cooperative effort to address factors that were affecting an unacceptable helicopter accident rate.
Prior to 2006, the number of worldwide civil helicopter accidents was rising at a rate of 2.5 percent per year. Since 2006, the number of accidents worldwide has been decreasing by an annual rate of 2 percent.
More information about the IHST, its reports, safety tools, and presentations from its 2014 safety symposium can be obtained at its web site at www.IHST.org and on the IHST Facebook page.
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