FAA: Helicopter Accidents Decline

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The accident rate for helicopters has fallen for the third year in a row, the FAA said on Monday. In raw numbers, there were 106 helicopter accidents in 2016, including 17 fatal accidents, a 12 percent decrease compared to the previous year and a 27 percent decrease compared to 2013. “The FAA and the helicopter industry have worked together to educate the civil helicopter community about safe practices, to drive these improved results,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The FAA and the industry also are taking an active role in advancing safety through new technology, collaborative policy changes, and proactive outreach.”

Matt Zuccaro, president of Helicopter Association International, says there is only one safety goal that he aims for — “and that is zero accidents in the helicopter industry.” In a recent blog, Zuccaro says the greatest challenge to achieving zero accidents is the industry culture. “We must change the philosophy of ‘Safety First, Above All Else’ from a slogan to a reality that is practiced every day, for every flight,” he wrote. Zuccaro says his group is promoting a program to help encourage helicopter pilots to go ahead and make a precautionary landing when safety is in question.

“When the flight isn’t going well and we should land to address deteriorating weather, low fuel, mechanical concerns, or another issue, we do not. Instead, pilots push on, with grave results,” he wrote. That decision-making habit needs to change, Zuccaro said. “One significant program that has started to move the industry culture in the right direction is the Land & Live initiative or, as I like to advise, ‘When safety is in question, land the damn helicopter!’” he wrote. The Land & Live website encourages pilots to take a pledge to make a controlled precautionary landing before an emergency landing becomes necessary.

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