Fatal GA Helicopter Crashes Prompt Call For Action

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"Treacherous missions are not at the root of a stubbornly persistent helicopter accident rate and helicopter fatalities," the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) said Wednesday, after four flights in eight days resulted in seven fatalities.  Each of the four accident flights from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17 appear to have initiated as normal general aviation/private flights, according to IHST, "but each ended with fatal results." IHST is made up of industry representatives and the FAA. It is calling for greater vigilance from pilots flying even "ordinary, mundane flights," but the organization also has a larger agenda in mind.

IHST has the goal of reducing the civil helicopter accident rate by 80 percent before 2016. The four fatal crashes cited by the group include a golf outing in Pennsylvania; "an evening flight" near Fredericksburg, Texas; a wire strike near Crowley, La.; and a crash after an early morning takeoff in Bucks County, Penn. IHST notes it will wait for full investigations before assuming probable cause, but said the accidents "reflect a need for the private helicopter pilot and helicopter community to take a critical look at its risk mitigation efforts and safety practices." Each flight, no matter how mundane, includes "serious and critical safety factors," said IHST, "that will either prevent or result in an accident." What we are learning, according to the group, is that "many pilots are not evaluating the risk when they feel it is a standard, low-risk flight." And that mindset, says IHST, can have tragic consequences.