Stacy Talks & Reviews: Are Helicopters Safe?

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Are Helicopters Safe?

Flying is an amazing experience, especially if you rent a helicopter or an airplane and you get to explore an area from the air. However, with all the tragedies surrounding airplanes and helicopters, a lot of people wonder if helicopters are safe.

Let’s take a look.

Helicopters Come with Some Included Risks

While they’re generally safe to fly, helicopters have certain risks to them that we don’t see with airplanes.

One such risk is dealing with bad weather. Since helicopters are lighter than most airplanes and move and lower speeds, they can be thrown about by wind much more easily.

Because of this, certain helicopters aren’t allowed to take off if the weather isn’t good.

Since helicopters are often used to reach areas that aren’t accessible to planes, their flight plan is also riskier and more unpredictable. While helicopters are more maneuverable, this puts them in danger at times!

Another thing we have to keep in mind is that helicopters can’t reach the heights airplanes do. Because of this, they’re more susceptible to turbulence, while they also come up against physical obstacles, such as buildings, terrain, radio towers, etc.

Helicopters are also more difficult to fly than planes because of their hovering function, which increases the chances of a crash. They also take off and land more than planes, and since those two actions are the most dangerous part of flying, they’re statistically more likely to crash.

Why Are Helicopters So Important?

Even though helicopters make up a measly ~6% of the general aviation fleet of the USA, they’re disproportionately important. Helicopters can reach areas inaccessible by airplanes, which is crucial for evacuations, medical transport, search and rescue operations, police operations, firefighting, and even for transport as air taxis.

Because of this, helicopters have so far proven to be indispensable, especially when it comes to emergency services. The question remains, how safe are they?

What Do The Statistics Say?

According to the United States Helicopter Safety Team, there were 0.72 fatal accidents per 100 000 hours of flight time in 2018, which is a significant increase in comparison to 2017.

This is most likely connected to low-altitude operations, which comprised 33% of fatal accidents in 2018. Find the entire report here.

What does this mean? Well, less than a single fatal accident per 100 000 hours of flight time isn’t bad, but it proves that helicopters aren’t perfectly safe.

In comparison, 2020 recorded a 1.53 fatal car accident rate per 100 000 drivers (not driving hours). In another form of expression, this means that there were 1.46 deaths per 100 million miles.

This means that helicopters are safer than cars, although not by a wide margin. Non-scheduled, impromptu helicopter flights are the most dangerous type of helicopter flight, statistically.

Helicopters Are Safe

Although they're not as safe as airplanes, partly because of their design – partly because they're used to getting too difficult areas, helicopters are still safe. The most dangerous helicopter rides are unscheduled, while airline helicopter rides are much safer.

Helicopter sightseeing rides, such as helicopter rides in Oxnard offered by Wings Over Camarillo, can be considered safe as they're regularly scheduled. Before takeoff, pilots have to check their helicopters every single time.

However, there are also things you, as a passenger, can do to fly safely!

How Can I Guarantee a Safe Flight

First of all, make sure to book your flight in advance and try to book it through a reputable airline. Some airlines have regular helicopter flights with pilots experienced in flying the route.

Avoid flying at night if possible. Although both airplanes and helicopters rely on radars and other similar systems to navigate (and there’s usually no trouble with them), daytime flights are normally less windy.

Listen to the pilot’s instructions at all times. If the pilot decides to quit the flight before takeoff for any reason, don’t try to push it and persuade them to fly. These professionals know what they’re doing.

Before taking off, ask the pilot if they made all the necessary checks. While this is usually obliged by law, there are always a few bad apples, and mistakes can be made.

Don’t move around the helicopter while flying. These vehicles are much lighter than airplanes, which makes them more sensitive to the cargo they’re carrying (you). If you move around, you can disturb the balance of the helicopter – especially if you’re a heavy person.

Lastly, don’t try to open the door and hop off as soon as you land – wait for the pilot’s instructions first.

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