Aviation accidents are rare, but when they occur, helicopters are far more dangerous than planes. The terrain in Alaska is notoriously difficult to navigate. Helicopters are heavily-regulated, but this doesn’t decrease the risk. With a helicopter, hard landings and even engine failure can spell tragedy for individuals onboard. Here are six major risks associated with helicopters.
The majority of accidents occur at low altitudes, and most are fatal. The reason is that the helicopter pilot flying at such low altitudes doesn’t have enough time to react to conditions. Also, flying at such a low altitude can make it difficult to get out of the way of oncoming aircraft.
The helicopter has three separate engines, each with its fuel tank. If an engine fails, you’re looking at a loss of power. If the aircraft loses power and cannot autorotate, it will fall from the sky. Helicopters are unique from airplanes because they can’t glide or glide land like planes. The engine powers the main rotor on helicopters. If it stops, it becomes a dangerous flying object that will likely cause serious injury or death if it hits something or someone on the ground.
Out-of-control Rotor Blades
A helicopter has many moving parts, but it only takes one thing moving incorrectly to cause a crash. That one moving part can be the rotor blades, parts of an aircraft that fly in a single direction. If a blade stops spinning due to mechanical failure or crashing into something, there is no autopilot to take over and land the craft safely.
Poor Weather Conditions
Weather is one of the largest contributors to helicopter accidents. If a pilot is flying in bad weather, they need to pay extra attention to avoid other aircraft and understand what the conditions could be like at their destination. Poor weather can also cause the rotor blades to spin uncontrollably, leading to a crash or death of someone onboard.
Hard to Fly
It can be difficult for pilots to control helicopters because they don’t control the aircraft with a joystick. Instead, pilots must control the helicopter by pulling different columns and controls while flying.
Pilots are human, so they can make mistakes. Even the best pilots can be distracted by the weather or lose control of their aircraft, leading to a crash. Luckily, the designers often control some of the other risks that come with helicopters, like low-altitude flying and hard-to-fly mechanical designs.
Should You Avoid Them?
Helicopters are fairly dangerous when you compare them to airplanes. However, if you avoid bad weather and mechanical failure, there is a reasonably low risk of flying in a helicopter.