Black Hawk Down

Why do helicopters seem to crash all the time?

By Katy Waldman

A Black Hawk helicopter No American soldiers were killed in Sunday’s raid on Osama Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, but a helicopter sustained damage after a hard landing and the SEALs blew it up to keep the technology secret. This high-profile chopper failure is hardly unique. During the Iran hostage crisis, troops abandoned a rescue mission because three of the eight Sea Stallion transport copters proved defective. Why do so many helicopters seem to fail?

Because chopper aviation is highly complex. Setting aside the dangers of flying through a war zone, operating a helicopter means navigating in multiple directions—straight up and down, as well as backward, forward, and to the sides. Helicopters fly at lower altitudes than airplanes, which means that pilots must often maneuver in tight spaces and have to contend with obstructions such as phone lines, trees, and buildings. Generally, they also need to improvise landings, whereas fixed-wing crafts often travel by predetermined routes and use paved runways. In 2005, the U.K.-based Civil Aviation Authority published a set of industry accident reports for helicopters. "Struck power cables in a low cloud," read one. "Entered fog and crashed into woodland," said another. Operational errors caused by weather conditions and high-risk flight environments are by far the leading causes of chopper mishaps, especially as maintenance technologies continue to improve.

Read More>>

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: