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NTSB Safety Alerts Address Helicopter Crashes

In the last ten years, more than 1,500 helicopter crashes have occurred which involved air medical helicopters, commercial tour helicopters, search and rescue helicopters, and flight instruction helicopters. In an effort to address these aviation accidents and improve helicopter safety, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today issued two new Safety Alerts highlighting the importance of proper helicopter maintenance and simulator training. The NTSB added helicopter safety to their Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements, which is designed to bring attention to areas of transportation that are most in need of critical change to reduce accidents and save lives.   

"Implementing recommended safety improvements that address helicopter safety operations can mitigate risk for thousands of pilots and passengers each year," said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman. 

The two Safety Alerts issued by the NTSB include:

  • Safety Through Helicopter Simulators - Poorly performed emergency procedures have caused many helicopter crashes. Without flight simulator training, which can be used to introduce the element of surprise in simulated emergency situations, pilots are more likely to make costly errors that could have otherwise been prevented. The NTSB recommends that pilots use simulators in their training to ensure proficiency in emergency procedures, including auto rotations, use of NVGs (night vision goggles), flight into degraded visual conditions, and recovery from unusual attitudes.  

  • Helicopter Safety Starts in the Hangar - The NTSB highlights three (3) issues that must be addressed: (1) The importance of maintenance and post maintenance inspections for helicopters, in light of their complexity and diverse operating environments; (2) lax oversight of maintenance tasks which can lead to accidents; and (3) fatigue and other human performance factors which can increase the risk of errors. In order to address these issues, the NTSB makes a number of important recommendations. Mechanics should take steps to confirm that they have undergone adequate training for the specific maintenance tasks. Maintenance personnel should utilize work cards in order to ensure that all necessary maintenance steps have been completed. Care should be taken to make sure that maintenance work is in compliance with manufacturers' procedures. Finally, independent inspections of critical items that have undergone maintenance should be obtained.   

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