Fatal helicopter accidents down 20% in 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — The helicopter industry recorded another year of decreasing accidents, with the number of fatal accidents dropping by more than 20%, and a 2.6% reduction in the total accident rate (per 100,000 flight hours).

“Our numbers are improving, but we’re not where we want to be yet,” noted Nick Mayhew, industry co-chair of the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST). “We know our aircraft are sound and safe, thanks to efforts by manufacturers. The vast majority of accidents result from human error. Therefore, pilots and operators must continue to strengthen our safety programs holistically, improving training programs, safety culture, and effective use of technology.”

(Photo By Paul Campbell)

Preliminary data shows 94 total U.S. helicopter accidents in 2020 compared to 121 accidents the year before. There also were 19 fatal accidents in 2020 compared to 24 fatal accidents in 2019.

Comparing 2020 to 2013 (when the USHST was officially formed), fatal accidents are down by more than 35%. The fatal accident rate, however, for the prior five-year span continued to creep upward. 

A bright spot during 2020 occurred late in the year when the U.S. helicopter community went a record 107 days — Aug. 25 to De. 9 — without a fatal accident, officials reported 

Total 2020 U.S. Helicopter Accidents 2020: 94 accidents, 19 fatal accidents, 35 fatalities, 22% decrease in accidents compared to 2019, 36% decrease in accidents compared to 2013 2019: 121 accidents, 24 fatal accidents, 51 fatalities      2018: 122 accidents, 24 fatal accidents, 55 fatalities                       2013: 146 accidents, 30 fatal accidents, 62 fatalities

“Having these statistics continue to move in a good direction is a positive and I applaud my colleagues for all they do each day to make our industry safer,” Mayhew added. “But we can do better. Zero fatalities remain our goal. Here at USHST, we continue to work on safety enhancements based on the accidents we have analyzed and we’re regularly developing safety materials to support this effort.”

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