Fatal Helicopter & Air Tour Accidents in Hawaii
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Hawaii Helicopter Crash Rates Among Highest
Of all tourist destinations, Hawaii seems to have one of the highest tour helicopter crash rates in the country. From January 2003 to July 2008, the NTSB lists 36 helicopter crashes, many of which involved tour companies. During that time, there were 24 pilots and passengers killed.
One reason for the high accident rate is the sheer numbers: it is estimated that 1 in 10 visitors to the state take a helicopter sightseeing tour during their visit, amounting to about 120,000 passengers yearly.
But that is not the only cause. In some fatal accidents, bad decisions on the part of the pilots has been cited as the primary cause of the crash. During one incident on September 23, 2005, a pilot knowingly entered a localized “microburst” or mini-rain storm that is common around the Hawaiian islands. This caused the pilot to lose control of the helicopter and crash into the ocean.
In contrast, Grand Canyon helicopter crash rates are relatively low.
Most helicopter crashes and aviation accidents result in catastrophic injures and death. Due to the severe impact with the ground, the survivors often suffer from serious back and neck injuries, ruptured or herniated discs, head injuries, paralysis, paraplegia, quadriplegia and traumatic brain injuries. One legal remedy available to those workers who were injured while in the course and scope of their employment is a workers compensation claim. Workers Compensation benefits are often very limited and do not truly compensate the injured crash victim or the surviving members of a person killed in an aviation crash.
The accident rate in helicopter flight was flat, or perhaps increasing attendees noted. The statistics presented showed that the helicopter accident rate was 7.5 per 100,000 hours of flying, whereas the airplane accident rate was approximately 0.175 per 100,000 flying hours.
The causes of helicopter accidents can be grouped into three major causal areas: Operational error, mechanical malfunction, and electrical malfunction. Within these broad categories, there are multiple underlying causes.
1. Operational Error. Although all three categories involve some degree of human error, operational error is the one where the human error is most direct and apparent. This human error can occur in flight planning, actual conduct of the flight, in training or in maintenance.
a. Failure to operate the aircraft in accordance with the aircraft’s operational limitations.
b. Operating the aircraft in unsafe environmental conditions.
c. Failing to properly plan the flight.
d. Improper maintenance
e. Improper training of flight and maintenance personnel
f. Faulty manuals, training guides, checklists and operational procedures
g. Faulty oversight, auditing and review procedures
2. Mechanical Malfunction. A component of the aircraft fails or fails to function as intended. This can happen anywhere along the component’s life.
a. Improper design
b. Inadequate testing
c. Faulty manufacture
d. Inadequate quality control
e. Inadequate operational monitoring
f. Improper use
g. Poor maintenance
h. Inadequate lubrication or cooling
i. Improper installation
3. Electrical Malfunction Here, the electrical source stops working or one of its components has a malfunction.
a. The electrical source malfunctions
b. An electrical short occurs
c. An electrical component malfunctions
d. Inadequate design
e. Inadequate testing
f. Inadequate quality control
g. Inadequate operational monitoring
Each of these elements of the three major causal areas contains its own subset of individual factors as to exactly why and how it occurs. Sometimes these factors result in minor or no aircraft damage or injury, but all too frequently they cause great aircraft damage and personal injury, even death. One thing is true as to all causes: they are preventable.