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Helicopters and Accidents

Helicopter accidents occur more frequently and often result in more severe injuries than airplane accidents.  Helicopters fly lower, encountering more obstacles than airplanes.  They are also complex aircraft with many components.  A great number of things may go wrong during a helicopter flight.  Essentially, helicopter accidents are caused by either operational or mechanical errors.  The NTSB undertook a helicopter accident study involving accidents occurring between 1990- 2000. This study identified the 15 top causal factors in helicopter accidents. A summary of the study can be found here.

The mechanics of helicopter flight are complex. A helicopter rotor is powered by the engine, through the transmission, to the rotating mast. The mast is a cylindrical metal shaft which extends upward from—and is driven by—the transmission. At the top of the mast is the attachment point for the rotor blades called the hub. The rotor blades are then attached to the hub. Main rotor systems are classified according to how the main rotor blades are attached and move relative to the main rotor hub. There are three basic classifications: rigid, semirigid, or fully articulated, although some modern rotor systems use an engineered combination of these classifications. Unlike the small diameter fans used in turbofan jet engines, the main rotor on a helicopter has a quite large diameter, permitting a large volume of air to be accelerated. This permits a lower downwash velocity for a given amount of thrust. As it is more efficient at low speeds to accelerate a large amount of air by a small degree than a small amount of air by a large degree it greatly increases the aircraft's energy efficiency and this reduces the fuel use and permits reasonable range.

When you or a loved one is involved in a helicopter accident, it is important to choose an experienced aviation attorney.  An aviation attorney will have a better understanding of the aircraft model’s engineering and history.  A good aviation attorney will use the NTSB report as just one piece in a comprehensive investigation of what happened.  The attorney will also visit the accident site; hire experts; gather all relevant government data: and interview eye witnesses, NTSB and FAA employees.  Choosing the right attorney may provide comfort in a time when answers are needed.

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