No person would love to travel and not return home safely, whether such means of transportation is by helicopters or airplanes. However, since these are pieces of machinery, there are bound to be complications, especially the ones that may not have been brought to the notice of man, no matter how meticulous man has been to ensure safety.
The safety pictures between a helicopter and a plane painted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are hard to reconcile since these two aircraft are operated under different weather conditions and for varying reasons. In addition, several other factors come to the fore when we compare the safety statistics of these machines.
What more? It is hard to measure the safety precautions put in place for training pilots of tourist helicopter companies since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has no oversight over them.
This piece will examine air travel, taking helicopter travel safety side by side with airplane travel safety, to determine which is the safest.
So, are helicopters safer than planes? Let us get to find out below.
Are helicopters safer than planes?
No. Helicopters are not safer than planes. And the reasons are as follows:
- Flying at a low altitude
Unlike planes that can fly at a higher altitude, helicopters fly at a lower altitude, where they are susceptible to dangers. They are open to obstacles such as cell phone towers, hills, trees, and buildings. In foggy conditions, the pilot might not see any of these to maneuver in time.
Planes fly above turbulence and will be undisturbed as would be said helicopters.
- Inclement Weather
Flowing from the above helicopters are not safer than planes because they can be disturbed by rain, thunderstorms, snow, heavy winds, and hail. Executive Flyers noted that many helicopters have crashed because of these unpleasant weather conditions. Many helicopters cannot navigate these weather conditions due to impairment of visibility.
If they can fly above this inclement weather, they would have been as safe as helicopters.
- Flying Challenges
One of the main reasons why helicopters are not safer than planes is pilot error. The controls of a helicopter are sensitive and require utmost concentration due to multitasking.
Many pilots are nonchalant. They fly when tired, intoxicated, and drive with distractions. Also, many helicopters do not undergo proper training.
Some of them do not take weather warnings before flying. And this is the main cause of helicopter crashes.
Helicopters hover a lot unlike planes, and hovering is not an easy task. Hence utmost cautiousness is expedient.
- Risky Mission
Planes are organized to fly. They fly in a controlled environment, with runways, air tower support, and at regulated flight paths.
Helicopters embark on risky missions and fly almost at will.
Helicopters go on missions that planes cannot access. And this makes them more susceptible to unfavorable conditions. Thus, they are not safer than planes.
Statistics to show why a helicopter is not safer than a plane
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the rate at which helicopters crash is higher than the rate at which airplanes crash.
For general aircraft, the crash rate is 7.28 crashes per 100,000 hours of flying.
The rate of crashes for a helicopter is of higher number. The rate is 9.84 per 100,000 hours. Thus, helicopters have a 35 percent risk of crashing than airplanes.
In 2015, 121 helicopters crashed in the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report.
A year after, a nationwide crash of 106 helicopters was reported, 17 of which involved casualties. Though the reporting of helicopter crashes has subsided. However, the rate at which people die or get long-lasting injuries remains high.
Is flying in a helicopter safer than driving?
This is a tricky question to answer directly. However, when you consider the death rate per helicopter crash and compare the same with driving-related accidents every year, then flying a helicopter is safer than driving.
The answer does not stop short there. Factors such as having more cars on the road than we have helicopters in the air is also a determinant. Helicopters rarely have to compete with many other helicopters for flight. While driving takes extreme caution due to having more drivers and cars on the road. It becomes more difficult on a two-way drive with no embarkment separating them.
You might be as careful and adhere to all safety guidelines when driving, yet some inconsiderate drivers could affect you.
Flying a helicopter is safer because the air is often free for helicopters to fly without encountering the same concern related to driving.
A car is likely to crash at any given time than a helicopter.
In 150,000 flights, just one crash was reported and only one death per 100,000 flying logs. On the other hand, in 2018, a report stated that almost 38,000 Americans lost their lives in a car crash. Per day that is approximately 120 people.
Considering the numbers, you will prefer flying a helicopter to driving a car on every journey you desire to make. You are more likely to arrive at your destination safely than when you drive a car. Hence, flying a helicopter is safer than driving.
How likely are you to survive a helicopter crash?
There are several considerations as to how likely you are to survive a helicopter crash. Chief of them is the level of impact of the crash. There are two types of crashes.
- Non-survival high-velocity impact crash:
Under this heading, when the helicopter crashes there is a high impact and a post-crash fire.
- Survivable low-velocity impact crash:
This type of helicopter crash is also described as what is known as a “hard landing,” and they are often survivable.
A number of designs can increase the survival rate from a helicopter crash.
Firstly, if the landing gear is designed with collapsible struts, it can sustain a crash load upon impact and help passengers and pilots survive the crash.
Secondly, a helicopter designed with a load-absorbing structure will absorb crash loads in different directions and increase the rate of survivability.
Thirdly, a helicopter designed with a personal restraint system like a seat belt found in cars can prevent a helicopter passenger from sustaining an injury or being thrown out upon crash.
Lastly, it is often the case that many passengers survive a helicopter crash, but the resulting fire kills them. If there is a fire extinguisher onboard, it can increase the helicopter crash survival rate.
Is a private plane or helicopter safer?
A private plane is safer than a helicopter due to the altitude of the flight. A helicopter flies at a lower altitude and thus is likely to succumb to turbulence which leads to crashes. On the other hand, a private plane flies at a higher altitude and can avoid turbulence involved in flying at a low altitude.
Helicopters are more prone to mechanical failures than private planes. And fewer people are involved in flying a private plane than a helicopter. Thus, private planes are safer than a helicopter.
Private plane pilots are required to have several years of experience before they can be allowed to fly passengers commercially. Helicopter pilots do not have to possess so many years of experience before they can fly.
Whereas private planes are safer than helicopters as a whole, the number of passengers they carry will make them riskier if a crash occurs. When you compare these numbers with the passengers on a helicopter, then you would be forced to believe helicopters are safer.
What is the safest helicopter in the world?
Gegu Mall noted the difficulty involved in picking which helicopter is the safest in the world and then proceeded to list the ten safest helicopters in the world. But we will state just one from the list as the safest helicopter in the world.
The Bell206B family is our pick as the safest helicopter in the world. It features twin blades and single and two-engine helicopters. An aircraft made originally for the US Military as the Bell YOH-4 but never flew. It was redesigned and marketed as Jet Ranger.
It boasts of a single pilot and four passenger seats. A Rolls Royce 250-C20J engine model has luxurious leather interiors and can fly a distance of 374 nautical miles at 134 mph average speed.
An interesting fact about this helicopter is that it has featured in two James Bond movies and Terminator 2.
However, the BBC reported that an 18-rotor Multicopter, first flown in Germany, is renowned the safest helicopter in the world. Though this claim suffers from the fact that the helicopter can only fly for 25 minutes.
In conclusion, it is not very frequent for the Aviation Industry to report cases of crashes, whether private, commercial planes, or helicopters. Air travel is generally safer than driving. This article has critically answered all the questions raised by passengers and users of aircraft. We hope you will continue to fly and be safe in your travels. At this point, we say, “Bon Voyage!”