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Posting Helicopter Crash Videos…Training Benefit or Industry Dogma?

Posted 5 years 32 days ago ago by Randy Rowles

Posting Helicopter Crash Videos…Training Benefit or Industry Dogma?
Author: Randy Rowles

This past week, two videos were posted throughout the Internet regarding helicopter incidents that caught my attention. One was a fire fighting helicopter hitting wires while departing with a load of water, and the other of a wedding party flight which ended in a fatal crash after an Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Condition (IIMC) event. On the surface, the immediate value of visually experiencing the mistakes of our pilot peers seems priceless. The issue is the unknowing public believing each helicopter pilot is just one flight away from a video-recorded disaster!

I must admit that I’m not the most proficient when it comes to social media culture, however I’m very much in tune to the perception of our industry as it is viewed through the eyes of the customers we serve. In the case of the wedding party flight, I first learned of the video from a non-pilot friend. The text I received from my friend stated, “Just saw a helicopter accident. Killed a beautiful young Bride. You couldn’t get me in a helicopter if you paid me! Poor family can never forget this as it’s cemented in time by the Internet. Stay safe”.

These videos that we, as instructors, use to help teach a subject or get a point across are finding their way into the hands of our customers. In many cases, our own pilot peers are posting these videos on social media without regard to the negative perception it places on our industry. The general belief is that helicopters are dangerous. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, however we as industry are becoming our own worst enemy on the subject. By placing a helicopter crash video in the public domain without any supporting facts to understand the circumstances of the event is reckless and without foresight of the public’s reaction.

When a helicopter pilot comments on a helicopter crash video in any manner, the public perceives those comments as authoritative and in many cases, incontrovertibly true. Thus, the helicopter pilot’s comments should reflect a professional, remorseful, and concerned response as the video does not reflect our industry, only an individual event.

To summarize, we must recognize that a negative perception of the helicopter hurts us all. There is value in helicopter accident videos, however the line between its good use as a training aid and its more than likely use as supporting evidence for anti-helicopter efforts is very thin. The emotional connection the average person will have when visually experiencing horrific images in some of these helicopter crash videos is extreme. 

I wonder how many wedding party flights were affected after the related helicopter crash video was released? We’ll never know the answer. Why? Because some will just cancel without the operator knowing why. In many cases however, the flights will never get booked because the video took the helicopter out of the planning all together!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Fly safe everyone!      

About Randy:  Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  Randy is currently  Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.