Updated: May 23
Does a helicopter pilot have a more dangerous job than a fixed wing pilot? Since helicopters are generally harder to fly than airplanes, they also are more dangerous to fly.
This is mainly because a helicopter pilot has many things to control like the joystick that moves the helicopter forward and backward, the collective control that moves it up and down, anti-torque pedals that turns the nose horizontally and the throttle which powers the engine. That’s not to mention all of the other things that need to be monitored, such as terrain, weather, air traffic and flight panel gauges.
Helicopters have considerably more critical moving parts than fixed wing aircraft, including a main rotor, tail rotor, gearbox, flight controllers, landing gear and a drive shaft that runs the entire length of the chopper. These parts experience almost constant wear and tear, which increases the potential for malfunction. A single defectively designed or manufactured part may also result in a malfunction. In such cases, it is difficult even for an experienced pilot to maintain or regain control of the chopper and avoid crashing
According to some of the most recent data from the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB), the rate of accidents during instructional flights, when pilots are just learning, is twice as high for helicopters as for airplanes: 12.69 accidents per 100,000 hours versus 6.08 accidents per 100,000 hours.
Overall, helicopter crashes are more frequent than airplanes, as well. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), helicopters crash at a higher rate than airplanes. The crash rate for general aircraft is 7.28 crashes per 100,000 hours of flight time. For helicopters, that number is 9.84 per 100,000 hours. That means helicopters have a 35 percent higher risk of crashing compared to airplanes.
In conclusion a helicopter is much harder and more dangerous to fly than a fixed wing aircraft. This however doesn't mean it is impossible to fly and as a helicopter pilot you are trained to fly safely. Make sure you choose the right flight school for you see our list of flight schools and see how to choose the best one. You can also see what type of helicopter pilot jobs you can get.
Becoming a helicopter pilot is an exciting and rewarding job.