Study: Crash Trends in Gulf Oil and Gas Ops Flights

A new study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy finds that helicopters servicing drilling platforms and vessels in the Gulf of Mexico crash on average more than six times per year,resulting in an average of 5 deaths per year.

From 1983 to 2009, 178 crashes resulted in 139 deaths, including 41 pilots and 3 co-pilots.

Mechanical failure was the most common cause, leading to 68 crashes (38 percent of the total), followed by bad weather (16 percent of the total).

The most common result of mechanical failure in both fatal and nonfatal crashes was loss of engine power, which occurred in almost one-third of fatal crashes.

The majority of forced landings following mechanical failure occurred in water, with 20 percent resulting in the sinking of the helicopter despite the fact that most helicopters are equipped with pilot-activated flotation devices.

Bad weather was the second most common cause of fatal and nonfatal crashes and for the largest number of deaths. Bad weather was the only factor that significantly increased the risk of pilot death when a crash occurred.

Pilot error was a major contributor to 83 crashes (47 percent), with poor decision-making the most prevalent error.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health