Helicopter Accidents

New Mexico Helicopter Accident Lawyers

Helicopters have revolutionized the way we fly.  Unfortunately, they are challenging machines to fly safely. Worse, the typical helicopter flight environment is a challenging place for any pilot–whether fixed wing or rotorcraft.  Typically, helicopters fly in dense urban areas, at low altitude, and in most weather conditions.  These combinations are historically deadly, and leave less-capable helicopter pilots susceptible to ground strike, building strike, wire strike, radio tower strike, and other low altitude risks.  “Machismo” organizational culture can lead to corporate pressure on helicopter pilots to fly in bad weather, or in conditions for which they are not trained.  These risks take an already difficult-to-fly aircraft and place it into an even more difficult and hazardous environment.  Moreover, in an emergency systems failure, such as the loss of engine power, helicopters lack the ability to glide to a safe, power-off landing like fixed-wing aircraft.  As a result of the powerful impact forces involved in a helicopter crash, the likelihood of those occupants’ sustaining severe and disabling injuries and fatalities is greater than in other aviation accidents.

Helicopters crash in the US at an alarming rate.  We operate half the world’s civil helicopter fleet, but over 36% of all helicopter crashes worldwide occur here.  By some calculations, the accident rate for civil helicopters per 100,000 flight hours ≈ 40% higher than that for fixed-wing general aviation aircraft.  The helicopter industry itself has acknowledged that the current helicopter accident rate is too high.

Because helicopters are so uniquely mission capable, crashes occur in a variety of contexts, including:

Sight-seeing Tours.  According to the NTSB, there have been more than 150 sight-seeing helicopter flight accidents nationally since January 2000. The primary cause of crashes within the helicopter tour industry includes inadequate management or supervision, inadequate maintenance practices, inadequate risk assessment of weather or environmental conditions, and double duty for pilots as “tour guides,” which compromises aeronautical decision making, incentivizes flight too close to obstacles, and promotes operations in crowded airspace.

News Operations.  There is a recurring safety problem involving numerous news helicopters involved in a police chase or other on-ground events simultaneously having the pilots report live while in flight.

Air Ambulances.  The NTSB long ago suggested that air ambulance services use a flight risk evaluation program for air ambulance operations, which  include consideration of weather, visibility, and the prospect of unfamiliar or unsafe landing sites.Too often, these proposals have fallen on deaf ears, leading to more tragic and senseless loss of life.

Utility Wire Inspections.  Helicopters are being used increasingly in the utilities industry for the inspection and maintenance of their transmission lines. This flight mission brings the helicopter close to powere and phone lines. These are typically difficult for helicopter pilots to see and are especially hazardous to a helicopter. Flying a helicopter in low altitude environments where wires are present requires a degree of skill which is even more complex and demanding than other types of helicopter flight.

Search and Rescue Operations.  Helicopters are used almost exclusively to rescue people injured in wild country, such as hikers, skiiers, campers, and stricken marine vessels.  This is especially so in New Mexico helicopter crashes.  Many of the same considerations for air ambulance operations should apply to search and rescue operations, including a formal method of risk assessment.  Many do not.

Law Enforcement Operations.  We have all seen police helicopters in use. Given the urban envorinments and dense airspace in which they operate, spotters and controllers are highly advisable.

Private Transportation.  Use of helicopters for private transportation has increased in recent years given the congested nature of many urban areas. It has become common for many downtown office buildings to install a helipad for use of executives or visiting dignitaries. Such things as the velocity and direction of wind require a high degree of skill by the pilot on these missions.

Off-shore Oil Platform Transportation.  More than 600 helicopters currently operate in the Gulf of Mexico off-shore fleet.  These helicopters fly 1.3 million missions and transport 3 million oil rig personnel  each year.   Sadly, these flights too often result in helicopter crashes, with the majority of accidents occurring while attempting to land on the oil rig.

Firefighting Operations.  Helicopters were first utilized to combat wild fires in southern California in 1947, and have been utilized extensively ever since. A standardized methodology for assessing weight for water, equipment, and personnel drastically decreases the chance of a weight and balance related helicopter crash in the firefighting context.


Victims of helicopter accidents should read our attorney perspective on the problems with NTSB investigations here, then contact us for a no-cost consultation.

If the crash was due to someone else’s negligence, the Dane Law Firm will fight to recover damages for your:

• Medical expenses
• Property damage
• Loss of consortium
• Lost wages
• Loss of future earning potential
• Prescription drug expenses
• Rehabilitation
• Funeral expenses
• Wrongful death
• Pain and suffering

In addition to fighting to recover these compensatory damages, we seek compensation for punitive damages to punish the parties responsible and help prevent others from acting in similar ways. You want justice and safety for your family, and improvement to the New Mexico aviation community. You want the Dane Law Firm, P.C.

*All claims arising from or relating to airplane, helicopter, and hot air balloon crashes and accidents are subject to time limitations, within which written tort claim notices must be served upon governmental agencies, and other time limits within which suit must be filed or the claim will be forever barred. These time limits and written tort claim notices to governmental agencies vary widely depending upon a careful legal analysis which includes the location of the crash, domicile of the parties, domicile of the survivors and their families, and choice-of-law issues. Therefore, if your crash occurred some time ago, it is strongly recommended that you contact The Dane Law Firm immediately to protect your rights. Moreover, no attorney-client relationship will exist between you and The Dane Law Firm until a written engagement agreement has been fully executed by the client, personal representative, conservator, or other legally authorized client representative and the Dane Law Firm, P.C.