Analysis of Weather-Related Helicopter Accidents and Incidents in the United States


Helicopters typically operate at lower altitudes than fixed-wing aircraft and can take-off and land away from airports. Thus, helicopter pilots have decreased access to weather information due to connectivity issues or sparsity of weather coverage in those areas and at those altitudes. Moreover, regulations allow most rotorcraft to operate in marginal weather conditions. Therefore, weather is a challenge to rotorcraft operations. In this study, rotorcraft events in the United States between 2008 and 2018 in which weather was determined to be a factor are analyzed using the National Transportation Safety Board aviation database. Results show that weather was a factor in 28% of rotorcraft fatal accidents. Wind was involved in most incidents but more rarely involved in fatalities. Bad visibility conditions due to a combination of low illumination and clouds were responsible for most fatal weather-related accidents. Personal flights had the highest accident and incident rates. Finally, the Helicopter Air Ambulance industry had the largest number of incidents and accidents related to visibility conditions out of all other industries. The authors recommend improving awareness of the conditions in which weather events occur and improving training to maintain control of the aircraft in windy conditions or during inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions.

Coline Ramée, Andrew H. Speirs, Alexia P. Payan, and Dimitri N. Mavris (2021), “Analysis of Weather-Related Helicopter Accidents and Incidents in the United States,” AIAA Aviation Forum 2021, Virtual, August 2021,