With the exception of some “peaks and valleys” in the data, the number of U.S. helicopter accidents has declined steadily for more than three decades, according to the United States Helicopter Safety Team's (USHST) latest fact sheet. The data shows that the average number of total accidents per year has declined by 40 percent since the late 1980s, and the average number of fatal accidents per year has been cut nearly in half.
Data for 1985 through 1994 indicates an average of 198 total accidents and 35 fatal accidents per year. From 1995 through 2004, there was an average of 176 total accidents and 30 fatal accidents annually. From 2005 through 2014, there was an average of 152 total accidents and 25 fatal accidents per year, and from 2015 through 2017, total accidents averaged 118 per year, with 18 fatal accidents annually.
The USHST attributes the decline in large part to “technological advancements and improvements throughout the industry: in manufacturing and design, materials and components, training and pilot skills, and maintenance.” But some “peaks and valleys in the data have occurred during the three decades, including lower than expected accidents in 1988 and 1996 and a higher than expected number of accidents in 1990, 1994 and 2013,” it said.
Founded in 2013, the USHST is a non-government organization comprised of representatives from the FAA, helicopter manufacturers, operators, and other safety associations.