Helicopter crashes into water: Warning time, final position, and other factors affecting survival

Christopher J. Brooks, Conor V. MacDonald, Susan P. Baker, Dennis F. Shanahan, Wren L. Haaland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


According to 40 yr of data, the fatality rate for a helicopter crash into water is approximately 25%. Does warning time and the final position of the helicopter in the water infl uence the survival rate? Methods: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) database was queried to identify helicopter crashes into water between 1981 and 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico and Hawaii. Fatality rate, amount of warning time prior to the crash, and final position of the helicopter were identifi ed. Results: There were 133 helicopters that crashed into water with 456 crew and passengers. Of these, 119 occupants (26%) did not survive; of those who did survive, 38% were injured. Twelve died after making a successful escape from the helicopter. Crashes with < 15 s warning had a fatality rate of 22%, compared to 12% for 16-60 s warning and 5% for > 1 min. However, more than half of fatalities (57%) came from crashes for which the warning time could not be determined. Discussion: Lack of warning time and how to survive in the water after the crash should be a topic for study in all marine survival/aircraft ditching courses. Investigators should be trained to provide estimates of warning time when investigating helicopter crashes into water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-444
Number of pages5
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Ditching
  • Float
  • Inversion
  • Marine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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