Air Tour Crashes Put Safety Under a Cloud

In the last 10 years, there have been 20 helicopter sightseeing tour accidents in Hawaii, 10 in Arizona, eight in Alaska and one in New York.

Travelers who want the thrill of a helicopter ride can do several things to reduce the risk.

The NTSB maintains an online database () with accident information searchable by state and type of aircraft, but not by operator. (A chart listing accidents by tour operator can be found at .)

To be safe, Bassett says travelers should choose a commercial air tour operator that is advertised as a "Part 135" carrier, the FAA's designation for carriers subject to higher standards than general aviation operators.

Travelers also should pay attention to the pilot's safety instructions and ask how to get out of the helicopter in case of an accident, especially if flying over water.

Ask questions if there is any uncertainty, especially if the pilot fails to provide pre-takeoff instructions, because safety, as travelers know, should never be left up in the air.


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