Helicopters in oil operations crash more than six times per year: study

September 14, 2011

Baltimore – Helicopters servicing drilling platforms and vessels in the Gulf of Mexico crash more than six times per year on average, indicates research released Sept. 12 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. Between 1983 and 2009, 178 crashes occurred, resulting in 139 deaths, according to a study abstract.

In 38 percent of the crashes, mechanical failure (most frequently loss of engine power) was identified as the cause. The majority of forced landings occurred in the water, and 20 percent resulted in the helicopter sinking despite being equipped with pilot-activated floatation devices.

Inclement weather was the second leading cause of helicopter crashes (16 percent), and weather-related crashes were responsible for the greatest number of deaths. Pilot error was a contributing factor in 47 percent of crashes, with poor decision-making being the most prevalent error.

The study was published in the September issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.