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Common Causes of Helicopter Crashes

Helicopter in Fog

Are there common causes for helicopter crashes? 

Yes, there are. Here are the most common causes:   


Weather is a very common factor.  However, dynamic, treacherous weather conditions such as thunderstorms or fast moving cold fronts are often not a factor.  Why?  Because the danger is so obvious that pilots typically avoid any dynamic weather conditions. 

However, restrictions to visibility such as low-level clouds, fog and rain, even light rain, have repeatedly been traps for pilots. Why?  Because these conditions can and do change rapidly, often resulting in visibility being reduced from 1 mile  to suddenly “zero-zero.”  This type of visibility restriction is suspected to have played a major role in the Kobe Bryant crash that resulted in 9 fatalities.   

Distracted Attention

Distracted Attention also plays a major role in fatal aviation accidents.  Distracted attention may come in many forms.  Some examples are: 

  • “Mission Fixation” sometimes referred to as “get home i-tis” 
  • In-flight Malfunctions
  • “Multi-task Overload”

Mission Fixation is often seen in Air Taxi flights, under Part 135 or even Part 91 flights of the Federal Aviation Regulations.  “Mission Fixation” often arises on flights when the pilot’s direct task is to get the passengers to a specific destination at a specific time.   Air Taxi flights that impose both time deadlines for specific destinations are more prone to tragic accidents. 

helicopter maintenance

Helicopter Maintenance 

Helicopter Maintenance, or lack thereof, is also a known factor in fatal helicopter crashes.  All aircraft, particularly helicopters, have required maintenance schedules[, whether its annual, hourly or specific periodic inspections of the helicopter in general and its component parts.

Ultimately, the PIC (Pilot in Command) is responsible for determining that the helicopter records and documents confirm the “airworthiness” of the aircraft.  However, pilots and passengers can and do rely on the helicopter owner’s log books and maintenance records, which verify that the helicopter is, in fact, airworthy and safe for flight.             

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