Are helicopters safer than cars? This is a question that has occupied many minds over the years. Many people believe that helicopters fly faster than cars, and they also think that they are more dangerous for that reason. Are they? How about in the air? Let’s look at this question and try to answer it.
There are two types of aircraft that are flying right now in the United States, which could be considered aircraft of the future. One type of these future helicopters are likely to be flying around inside of tall buildings. The tall buildings of course would contain much more carbon dioxide than a home would, which makes for a perfect set up for a massive explosion in some sort of highly volatile chemical.
Other models of the future helicopter will be flying into formations. These formations would include what we know as cirrus clouds, and they can get so thick that it is much safer to be flying inside of them than in a cloudless sky with no other airplanes around. This may mean that if you were inside of a cloud with a perfectly good view, your helicopter flight may be much smoother, and it might actually take less time to reach your destination because of the angle of entry into the formation.
These data show 0.034 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours across the United States. This means that about one percent of all helicopter flights are in fact fatal. Are helicopters safer than cars? In most cases, yes, but not in all cases. Now consider this.
Cars are safer than planes. Now consider that this was determined by statistics. Of course there are many things that can happen that are unexpected. For instance, an inboard engine can fail and you will die. But airplanes do not have inboards. They use the propane fuel which has the same temperature as air and does not go out of control as it does in a car, therefore the pilot can often make a landing with a fuel imbalance (like slamming the wings) very safe.
In contrast, a pilot can rarely anticipate mechanical failure, especially when it is well known that the worst type of failure is going to happen at takeoff. The data show that approximately one hundred and nine fatal accidents with helicopters occur during the critical first several minutes of flight. This is the point at which most pilots simply give up and call it quits. But this is not usually the case. Pilots are trained to avoid being tired and will stay alert to avoid the pitotoxic effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although some studies have been done to determine whether carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a panic attack in susceptible individuals, the data show that the odds are very small and not worth taking the risk.
Another thing, the data show is that most crashes with helicopters involve other aircraft, usually private jet aircraft. There are just as many aircraft collisions with large commercial aircraft, but these typically happen within a much larger group of people. It is difficult to know how many times a helicopter has hit another small aircraft without another pilot experiencing a panic attack or even dying in the crash. This is one of the reasons that the national Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has advised that helicopters should only be flown by qualified pilots with a medical background for their own safety.
If you are flying anywhere near an airport, especially one where large commercial planes are parked, it is best to be aware that there is always the chance of an airplane crashing nearby. If you are a pilot, or a passenger on a train, bus, or other type of vehicle, your safest bet is to remain seated until the arrival of the rescuers and/or ground crew. After all, you never know what will happen while you are out in the open with no help around. Pilots should make sure they always practice basic first aid techniques on-the-job before taking their license away from the FAA.