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Blue Hawaiian Helicopters lifting off in Hawaii with passengers seen onboard

Are helicopter tours safe in Hawaii

If we're referring to helicopter tours only, over the last decade there have been eight helicopter crashes in Hawaii.

Still, having clocked up hundreds of thousands of hours in that time, between a dozen or more Hawaii helicopter tour companies; statistics prove helicopter tours are safe in Hawaii. Incidents happen that involve fatalities, but proof is in the stats that shows it is possible to walk away from a crash.

Human error is the biggest cause with incidents in Hawaii as the pilot pulls a manoeuvre or carelessly proceeds on the tour in bad weather conditions.

Causes of crashes does in involve human error more so but engine failure has been known to cause a crash three times over the past ten years.

Despite that, helicopter safety is a high standard in Hawaii so the helicopter type in use then, continues to be used today.

You're very unlikely to be involved in a helicopter tour in Hawaii as the minutes clocked up along with the number of tours each year will see little to no incidents.

Proof is in the Hawaii helicopter tour crash statistics that show eight incidents over the last ten years, to which twenty-two passengers survived out of a possible forty-three.

No Hawaiian island is without its accidents involving helicopter tours as it can happen anywhere, with Hawaii being no different to anywhere else on earth.

Hawaii helicopter tour crash statistics

Operator: Type: Island: Cause: Lived: Year:
Blue Hawaiian Airbus EC130B4 Big Island Engine 0/7 2020
Safari Airbus AS350B2 Kauai Human 6/6 2019
Novictor Robinson R44 Oahu Unknown 3/3 2019
Novictor Robinson R44 Oahu Human 0/3 2018
Genesis Bell Jet Ranger Oahu Engine 1/5 2016
Blue Hawaiian Airbus EC130T2 Kauai Engine 0/7 2016
Blue Hawaiian Airbus AS355 Maui Human 5/5 2011
Blue Hawaiian Airbus H125 Maui Unknown 7/7 2000
My table lists Hawaii helicopter company involved in the crash; helicopter type in use at the time; cause of crash; how many people lived using a ratio platform; year of crash.

Well three of the four Hawaii helicopter tour companies are still in operation today, you won't be familiar with Genesis Helicopters as they're no more.

Its also worth noting helicopter tourism in Hawaii has come a long way over the last ten years, so crashes are less frequent, despite recent incidents.

I've labeled what helicopter type was involved in the crash but once again safety as improved on each model.

Notice how Oahu is the epicentre of Hawaii helicopter crashes followed by Maui who are tied with Kauai - which happen to be the busiest of the four major islands.

Human error is the main cause of helicopter tour crashes where the pilot could be blamed for the accident or is in part responsible, even if its out of their hands.

Of the eight helicopter crashes in Hawaii over the past decade, forty-three passengers were onboard when a chopper went down.

Unfortunately, while twenty-two passengers lost there life, half survived to tell the story.

Helicopter crashes can result in death, but the statistics show you can walk away even if seriously hurt or with minor injuries.

Hawaii helicopter crash record

While there have been eight helicopter crashes in Hawaii over the last decade; it can be said its not a common occurrence to see a helicopter tour crash in Hawaii.

  • Big Island - 2020, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters: Ten years on from their first crash, Blue Hawaiian were involved in an incident that resulted in the helicopter rolling over on the Circle of Fires tour via Hilo. Rolling is a result of the landing gear coming into contact with the ground, well tipping it over.
  • Kauai - 2019, Safari Helicopters: Rain and fog is said to be responsible for this recent crash where all six people died. Change of weather conditions in Kauai is quick and sudden, so its likely the pilot was caught out.
  • Oahu - 2019, Novictor Helicopters: Six months after Novictor were involved in a crash the company made the news again only this time all three people onboard died. The chopper caught fire as it crashed on a street in Kailua, Oahu.
  • Oahu - 2018, Novictor Helicopters: Pilot passed out as he was operating the helicopter where the co-pilot passenger had to briefly take the controls, which resulted in a crash where everyone onboard survived.
  • Oahu - 2016, Genesis Helicopters: While the company no longer are in operation, the crash involved a Bell Jet Ranger which crashed into the water in Pearl Harbor. Well four passengers lived, a 16 year old boy lost his life.
  • Kauai - 2016, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters: Five years on the operator was involved in a helicopter crash once again where all people onboard lived. Incident resulted from a hard landing where later the passengers filed a lawsuit.
  • Maui - 2011, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters: Less than a year on Blue Hawaiian Helicopters made the news again of a recent crash that left five people dead where the chopper slammed into a hillside on the island of Molokai.
  • Maui - 2000, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters: Return of the millennium resulted in a helicopter crash where six passengers and the pilot were killed on rugged mountains as it flow near to the Iao Valley..

Helicopter type safety

Boarding a particular type of helicopter will not guarantee a more unreliable or safer tour, because as you may know all helicopter models crash.

Helicopter tours are safe in Hawaii regardless of the type flown; but know the Robinson R44 overall is involved more in accidents.

I am not saying to not book with an operator who fly the R44, as the helicopter is still a reliable machine.

And as its flown more often for purposes outside helicopter tours, there's an increase in odds of an accident.

Who else appears to be involved in a Hawaii crash over the last ten years is Airbus with their AS series helicopters.

Proof that helicopter safety is not an issue is in the Bell Jet Ranger, which is rarely used.

So as you can see as its not often flown in Hawaii for helicopter tours, naturally the stats show only the one accident involving the Jet Ranger 206.

Having said that, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters more recent accident involving their popular Airbus EC130 did indeed crash for the first time, but it was without fatality.

Helicopter safety is an ongoing improvement in Hawaii as shown with little accidents involving engine failure.

Human error common cause

Where high standards in helicopter maintenance is not an issue in Hawaii, accidents are usually referred to pilot error.

What that means is the pilot made a manoeuvre through carelessness or ill health that resulted in the chopper crashing.

Example of that is where the helicopter as been known to hit hill sides or the time a pilot passed out mid flight.

In that incident the co-pilot passenger was forced to take controls which probably saved all those onboard.

Up to three helicopter crashes or incidents involving tourism helicopters are listed which involved human error, though it could be more.

That is where I am unable to get the reports of the accident or the investigation is still ongoing.

Human error can also involve weather where the company or pilot were careless enough to go ahead with a flight when the weather was poor or an incoming weather front was ignored.

So while human error is to blame for most helicopter tour accidents; outside of the tourism sector the research is more damning - for example private flights or training.

Oahu involved in more crashes

Remarkably its the island of Oahu that is involved in more helicopter tour incidents than any other island in Hawaii.

Why that is, is hard to say but apart from the now defunct Genesis Helicopters; two of the accidents were involved by one operator - Novictor Helicopters.

Harsh I know because without that Oahu is quite clean in terms of past accidents.

Next up its Kauai with the two accidents with one of them resulting in all those on board losing there lives.

Kauai has more helicopter tour operators on the island along with more helicopter tours departing each day - so it make sense in terms of an accident happening on Kauai.

Maui themselves had two helicopter crashes - up to nine to ten years ago - but no one onboard survived.

The second incident well departing Maui, actually happened on the island of Molokai.

Amazingly, it took more than ten years to see an incident involving a helicopter tour on the Big Island, which thankfully resulted in minor injuries only.

Do not base your helicopter tour on which island has the best record, because as you can see, an accident can occur anywhere.

Conclusion

Basically with only the eight helicopter tour crashes or minor incidents happening over a ten year period, it only averages one accident every fifteen months.

That is of course with years passing before a major or minor accident happens again.

Are helicopter tours safe in Hawaii on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.. well I can say they certainly are.

Statistics show that where an accident can occur, passengers can still walk away.

And where there was fatalities, it usually involves a helicopter crash that is more serious.

To blame for this most is human error where the pilot smashed into a hill side or decided to pull a manoeuvre that resulted in a crash.

Weather is a concern in Hawaii so while weather is to blame, it still lays on the shoulders of the pilot.

No island is immune from accidents involving helicopter tours but Oahu has jumped the list, followed by kauai/Maui with the Big Island having the one more recent accident.

Reference:

  • Wikipedia: List of accidents and incidents involving helicopters
  • ABC Chicago: What you need to know before boarding a tourist helicopter

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