Helicopters Magazine

Features Procedures Safety & Training
IHST looks to reduce helicopter fatalities

May 29, 2014  By Carey Fredericks

May 29, 2014, Alexandria, Va. - Without shifting its focus away from the elimination of all civil helicopter accidents, the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) is asking its worldwide partners to establish an additional focus regarding the steps that can be taken to prevent fatalities in helicopter accidents.  As a result, future IHST analysis will include the types of accidents that most frequently result in fatalities and the most cost-effective measures to improve helicopter crash survivability. 

Current IHST statistics show that the most common occurrences leading to fatalities are:

  • Loss of control
  • Obstacle and wire strikes
  • Degraded visibility
  • System component failures
  • Fuel issues

IHST research also reveals that measures to improve crash survivability may include:

  • Helmets
  • Crash resistant fuel systems
  • Crash-worthy seats with upper torso restraints
  • Seatbelt airbag systems
  • Deployable emergency locator transmitters

Data from the U.S. affiliate of the IHST shows an uptick in fatal accidents during 2013 and this prompted a harder look at helicopter fatalities and what was causing them.

“This added focus on reducing fatalities doesn’t change the IHST’s long-term vision of an international civil helicopter community with zero overall accidents,” explains IHST government co-chair Kimberly Smith.  “Although this global emphasis on fatalities may produce some new safety recommendations specific to the causes of fatal accidents or to crash survivability, the IHST’s high level safety recommendations won’t change.”


Recommendations to eliminate all types of accidents continue to focus on enhancing Safety Management Systems, on training, on systems & equipment (including health & usage monitoring systems and flight data monitoring systems), and on maintenance practices. 

The IHST promotes safety and works to reduce accidents.  The organization was formed in 2005 to lead a government and industry cooperative effort to address factors that were affecting an unacceptable helicopter accident rate.  Prior to 2006, the number of worldwide civil helicopter accidents was rising at a rate of 2.5 per cent per year.  Since 2006, the number of accidents worldwide has been decreasing by an annual rate of two percent. 


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