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Helicopters: So Many Moving Parts

In early June, two men were killed in a Southern Dallas-Fort Worth suburb when the medical transport helicopter they were taking on a routine maintenance test flight crashed.

The Keller Citizen reports that though investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the crash of the Bell 222U helicopter, speculation swirls around the aircraft’s so-called “Jesus nut.” That’s the name given to the large main rotor attaching nut – the nut that holds the rotor to the helicopter’s mast. It’s said that if it comes loose, those inside the helicopter face imminent injury or death in a crash.

In this crash, the main rotor was found intact and separate from the burned remains of the helicopter body, suggesting the rotor detached during the short flight. Mechanics had been working on the rotor prior to the flight.

Everything Must Go Right

The tragic crash illustrates a fundamental problem with helicopters: everything has to go right for one to fly. There are many moving parts. With an airplane, many variables have to go wrong before a crash.

Pilots of helicopters must possess a certain level of vigilance and skill in order to fly them safely, whereas airplanes, and especially those with computer-controlled navigation systems, essentially fly themselves (think of the flight last year when commercial airline pilots inadvertently yet safely overflew the Minneapolis, Minn. airport by 150 miles).

Helicopters are also more flexible and mobile. A helicopter can land in almost any open space big enough to accommodate its blades and are typically flown at lower altitudes. Helicopter pilots often fly near obstacles that may not be immediately visible to the naked eye, and engage in a wide variety of missions that include search and rescue and emergency medical transport.

Power Lines

Another Texas helicopter crash underscores the problem: a Seguin man suffered serious burns when the helicopter in which he flew as a passenger crashed into electrical power lines.

The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise reported that the helicopter hit the line when the pilot and passenger flew at low altitude en route to a ranch for a wild hog hunt.

The chopper crashed after it hit two electrical lines. The pilot emerged unhurt after he managed to land the Robinson R-22 helicopter safely, but the passenger suffered burns to an arm and leg.

We urge anyone considering a helicopter ride for pleasure or business to check out the company and its safety record before taking off. If you have been injured in an aviation accident, contact a personal injury attorney.