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Sightseeing helicopter crashes in Hawaii decrease following FAA regulations
Date:6/25/2009

An emergency rule intended to reduce the number of deaths and injuries associated with Hawaiian air tours was followed by a 47 percent reduction in sightseeing crashes, according to a new study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy.

However, the proportion of crashes that resulted in lives lost actually increased after the rule change due to an increase in crashes that resulted from poor visibility, which tend to be exceptionally fatal. The report is published in the July issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 71 in 1994 in response to a spate of crashes of helicopter sightseeing tours that year. The regulation established minimum flight altitudes and clearances from terrain, emphasized passenger safety precautions, mandated performance plans prior to each flight, and required flotation equipment or the wearing of life preservers on flights beyond the shoreline.

"Our findings indicate that the 1994 Rule was followed by a reduction of almost half in the crash rate. On the other hand, crashes that occurred as a result of low visibility-often because of rain, fog, or clouds-increased from 5 percent to 32 percent of all air tour helicopter crashes in the 14 years after the new regulation," said senior author Wren L. Haaland, a 2009 graduate of Johns Hopkins University who conducted the study as an undergraduate research assistant with the Bloomberg School's Center for Injury Research and Policy.

"Our data suggest the FAA should reconsider the Rule's clause that established a minimum flying altitude of 1,500 feet, as we know higher altitudes are associated with more cloud cover," said Susan P. Baker, MPH, director of the study's research and professor with the Injury Center. Clouds obscuring mountain peaks and passes are particularly common in H
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Contact: Tim Parsons
tmparson@jhsph.edu
410-955-7619
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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