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Common Causes of Helicopter Crashes (And How to Prevent Them)

a grounded helicopter at night

Helicopters are versatile aircraft that can perform difficult and dangerous tasks that an airplane cannot. Unfortunately, these aircraft are also susceptible to the slightest malfunction, some of which can prove deadly.

Here, we discuss the common causes of helicopter crashes and how to prevent them. We will also talk about your legal rights if you or a family member sustains injuries in a helicopter accident.

How Do Helicopters Work?

A helicopter uses horizontal rotating blades to fly. One can think of them as horizontal propellers that generate lift rather than the pull or push of a regular propeller. An airplane’s wings or a helicopter’s blades generate lift due to the Bernoulli Principle, which explains that when airspeed over the top of the wing or blade goes up, air pressure above the blade goes down, and air pressure below the blade goes up. The whirling of a helicopter’s blades allows air to rush over them and, with enough speed and the correct angle of the blades (controlled by the pilot), the machine is “lifted” into the air.

Helicopters are different from airplanes in that they do not require high forward speeds to generate lift, and therefore do not require a long runway to take off and land; in fact, most helicopters don’t require any runway at all. This enhanced mobility enables helicopters to move in ways that most airplanes cannot. For instance, a helicopter can move straight up, it can hover in one place, and can even back up or move sideways.

Why Do Helicopters Crash?

Potential causes are numerous, but some of the most common causes of helicopter crashes include:

  • Manufacturing defect/product liability
  • Pilot error or other human factors
  • Aircraft design defect
  • Aircraft maintenance negligence
  • Air traffic control — government or contractor error
  • Helicopter pad operator negligence
  • Obstructions
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Metal fatigue

Who’s Liable for a Helicopter Crash?

Several different parties may be held liable for a helicopter crash, including the helicopter manufacturer, component part manufacturers, helicopter operating companies, and more. These parties have a legal obligation to design, manufacture, and/or safely maintain helicopters.

Although pilot error can be a common cause of a crash, even those can often have been prevented by proper training or operating procedures, including proper safety programs enforced by the helicopter operators. Many helicopter crashes are preventable if helicopter companies and entities owning, operating, or leasing helicopters make safety their top priority. Safety measures that prevent helicopter crashes include:

  • Designing and producing helicopters and component parts that meet or exceed industry standards.
  • Identifying and mitigating any design or manufacturing issue that could threaten safety.
  • Routinely and thoroughly inspecting and maintaining helicopters.
  • Ensuring that pilots receive adequate currency training and are provided with vigorously enforced company safety procedures and guidelines that meet or exceed industry minimum requirements.

If a company’s failure to uphold these responsibilities causes or contributes to a helicopter crash, the company may be held liable in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a helicopter crash or other aviation accident, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is here to help. Our firm has decades of experience holding negligent helicopter companies responsible and accountable.

Call Wisner Baum at (855) 948-5098 to schedule a free consultation.


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