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Unfit For Flight

Sept. 22,2015

Helicopters are 85 times more dangerous than autos and 350 times more dangerous than travel by airliner.

A helicopter crashed into the East River in 2005 near Downtown Manhattan while carrying tourists on a sightseeing tour. This crash was the seventh of 10 helicopter crashes into the Hudson or East rivers since 1995. It has lead to a proposed NYC bill to ban tourist helicopters.

That is the underreported story in aviation news today.

Over 20 years ago, the FAA issued regulations requiring safer helicopter designs to improve air crash safety.

However, the fatality rate has not budged because only 10-16% of the fleet have the safety devices needed to prevent fires and ensure crash-worthiness survivability.

There is a civilian helicopter accident three times per week and an average of one fatality per week.

But only 2% of fatalities are on choppers with the safety measures mandated 20-25 years ago. In the past 25 years there were 4,200 accidents with 9,200 occupants and 1,300 deaths according to a FAA Rotorcraft Directorate report issued September 17th.

Five people were killed in 2011 in a helicopter crash during a tour of Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam.

Safety Last

The reason helicopters remain so dangerous is that the FAA created a giant loophole that allows manufacturers to ignore the air crash safety measures for new helicopters if they are based on an older design which most claim to be and does not require any retrofitting of the existing fleet.

On September 17th over the strenuous objections of, the FAA choose to study the matter for another 2 years years rather than take action. This will forgo any modification or enforcement of its 20-25 safety regulations indefinitely.

Paul Hudson, president and a member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee expressed shock and outrage.

March 11, 2007 (above) One person was killed and three seriously injured in a helicopter crash in Kauai. Just three days earlier, four people were killed and three were seriously injured when a tour helicopter crash landed on grass in Kauai. Hawaii has seen 60 helicopter crashes in the last 30 years.

He requested that any further study to implement the 25-year-old fire and crash worthiness rules be taken in six months instead of two years.

This was rejected by the FAA and the industry-dominated advisory committee, chaired by a Boeing representative.

Mr. Hudson noted, “This is an egregious and deadly example of what is horribly wrong at the FAA. It often refuses to implement basic safety rules, grants waivers or refuses to close loopholes in existing safety measures, causing unnecessary loss of life.”

The fatalities from helicopter crashes are primarily due to blunt-force trauma, fire from fuel tank explosions and drowning, largely preventable by the FAA safety measures that the helicopter industry has craftily avoided for decades.

Those particularly at risk are vacationers, helicopter pilots, frequent passengers such as offshore oil workers and affluent business persons and their families using helicopters to avoid traffic congestion.

Please write to us with your experience and concerns. A petition will be launched soon.


Your Letters:

Dear FlyersRights:

I have to tell you that I enjoyed yesterday’s article in the Washington Post about passengers’ right to less confinement.  The claustrophobic seating is one of the main reasons our family has not traveled on an American airline in the past 7 years.

I got  a particularly good laugh at the quote –

“Competition should determine what is offered,” says Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an airline trade group. 

Now that there is barely an competition whatsoever, they are in favor of it?  And while the Free Marketeer airlines are genuflecting to Competition as the deciding factor in all aspects of their industry, they are simultaneously fighting, tooth and nail, to keep higher-rated Gulf airlines – i.e. Emirates, Qatar, etc – from entering the US market

Washington DC

Dear FlyersRights:

Just took a flight from Denver to Minneapolis. I am of average height 5′ 11″ and I had a middle seat on the flight.

Delta Airlines on MD-90

Both of the gentlemen in my row were just a bit over 6′. I am wearing the khaki pants, they are wearing jeans.

You will notice how their knees are right up against the seat in front of them. All I can think of is the pictures I have seen of the aftermath of a plane accident and how all the seats look like they have been “tossed” around.

If is something were to happen, I would think these gentlemen at the least would be trapped and maybe even suffer substantial leg injuries.

Just wanted you to be able to add this to you information that you are sharing with Congress.

– BB

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