This article is prefaced with a few facts. The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) reported 122 helicopter accidents, with 51 fatalities, in 2019. There were 92 accidents and 35 fatalities in the first year of COVID dystopia (2020) when aircraft were grounded for months. In fact there was a 107-day period in 2020 with no fatal helicopter accidents, which is unusual compared to other years. Further, small, private aircraft crash relatively-frequently, even before the COVID-19/vaccine era. But the difference since 2021 – more people are dying in said crashes.
USHST data measure fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours every month. It’s rare for those monthly numbers to ever exceed ONE fatal crash per 100,000 hours. Anything under one is generally accepted as a good number. But three months in 2021 exceeded that baseline number, with a peak of 2.08 fatal crashes per 100,000 flight hours in December 2021.
The average American doesn’t pay attention to helicopter crashes or the statistic thereof. In the last five years, the only real spike in searches for helicopter crashes on Google trends was in January 2020 after former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash. Searches are now trending upwards in February 2022 as well.
A website called The Points Guy crunched statistics from various government agencies to create a “Death Index” for modes of travel. Commercial airlines are the safest and the baseline mode of travel, with an index of 1. Only two people have died in U.S. commercial airplane accidents since 2010. Helicopters have a death index of 63. Private planes are 271.7. For what it’s worth, all of them are safer than driving or riding in a car, with a 453.6 death index.
We covered a few unusual stories of plane crashes last year. Even mainstream media noticed the uptick in 2021 and started asking questions. It’s also fair to note that private plane crash fatalities rose from 2017 to 2018. All that being said, last week was perhaps the most attention-grabbing time period in aviation since 9/11, particularly related to deaths. But you wouldn’t know it if mainstream media are your primary sources of news.
Olathe, Kansas – February 13 (2012 single-engine Piper Malibu Meridian)
Robert Douglas Ming was a former city councilman and mayor of Laguna Niguel (California). He was also a managing partner at Quadrant Law Group in Irvine, California. He received his private pilot license for single-engine airplanes on November 7, 2019, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records.
His plane was registered to a company called Quadrant Investments.