Life Flight Emergency Medical Service Helicopter Crash Numbers Spike in 2008

“Life flight” or “Emergency Medical Service Helicopter” crash numbers spiked in 2008, according to a recently published National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report.  These “On-Demand” flight operations experienced an alarming increase in fatalities in 2008 according to the preliminary aviation accident statistics report.

The overall aviation safety record in the United States is one of the best in the world.  However, the 2008 aviation statistics revealed a mixed picture.  This spike in fatalities in on-demand air charter operations was particularly concerning to the NTSB Chairman, Mark Rosenker.  The chairman stated in the report that, “There’s a lot of room for improvement in this area, and as evidenced by our recent forum on emergency medical service helicopter accidents.”

These ‘on-demand” flight operations (operating under 14 CFR Part 135) includes life flights operated by hospitals, air medical helicopters, air taxi and air tour flights.  Of this on-demand group, over 3.6 million flight hours were recorded and 56 accidents reported.   As a result of these 56 crashes, 66 people were killed.  This was the highest number of fatalities since 2000.  In 2007 there were 43 fatal on-demand helicopter fatalities reported.

The promising part of the report was accidents involving large commercial carriers (operating under 14 CFR Part 121).  The major airlines carried 753 million passengers on 10.8 million flights with no passenger fatalities.

Commuter airlines (operating under Part 135) which normally fly smaller regional jets or turboprop aircraft, made 581,000 flights with no fatalities.

Under the general aviation category (operating under 14 CFR Part 91) there were 1,559 accidents.  Included in these 1,559 accidents were 495 deaths from 275 crashes.  The general aviation accident rate per 100,000 flight hours was 7.11.  This number was up from 6.92 in 2007.

The 2008 statistical tables are available at on the NTSB’s site.

If a family member or other loved one has been the victim of an helicopter crash disaster you need an experienced aviation attorney.  Please call or click to speak directly with B. Keith Williams.