The Dangers of Offshore Helicopters
A common way to transport workers to and from offshore drilling rigs is by helicopter. Air travel is much quicker than traveling by boat and because helicopters have good maneuverability, they can easily land on drilling rigs that are equipped with helicopter pads. While helicopters offer a quick, convenient way to transport offshore workers, there are dangers and safety issues to be considered. Offshore helicopter crashes usually lead to fatalities. In fact, a study conducted in 2011 at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy reported 178 helicopter crashes between 1983 and 2009 that resulted in in 139 deaths.
Leading Causes of Helicopter Crashes
- Mechanical Failure
- Bad Weather
- Pilot Error
The Hopkins study found that mechanical failure was the leading cause of offshore helicopter accidents. The loss of engine power was responsible for almost a third of the crashes that led to fatalities. The study also found that 20% of forced landings due to mechanical problems occurred in the water. The second most common contributor to offshore helicopter crashes was bad weather, which was responsible for 16% of the crashes. Pilot error was also a contributing factor in nearly half of the accidents.
Mechanical failure is when a component of the helicopter fails or does not work as it was intended to. A mechanical failure could be caused by a number of things at any point during the helicopter's life. The malfunction could be the result of a defect in the design of the helicopter, faulty manufacturing, poor maintenance and upkeep, improper installation, inadequate operational monitoring, or improper use. An electrical malfunction could also cause a helicopter accident.
Foggy, windy, or rainy weather can also cause a helicopter to crash. Weather over the seas can often be violent and unpredictable. Heavy fog and rain can restrict the pilot's range of sight, while strong winds can make it difficult to guide the helicopter to guide. Strong headwinds and tailwinds are very dangerous conditions to fly in and can cause the pilot to lose control of the aircraft. If at all possible, pilots should avoid flying in inclement weather.
Pilot error (sometimes referred to as operational error) is an error in the flight planning, conducting the flight, training or maintenance. This includes errors like not operating the aircraft within its operational limits, flying in unsafe weather conditions, improperly planning the flight, failure to maintain the helicopter, and improper training of flight and maintenance personnel.
Each of these dangers can cause a fatal helicopter accident on its own, though there are often multiple contributing factors to the crash. With proper training and safety protocols, all of these factors are preventable. If you have been injured in an offshore helicopter accident, you need to speak with an experienced helicopter accident lawyer. Contact Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation.