5 worst accidents in the history of Helicopters

5 worst accidents in the history of Helicopters

The deadliest crash involving a single helicopter happened in 2002 in Chechnya while the worst event took place exactly 20 years ago. Here's the complete list

Heaviest military helicopters can carry up to 80 passengers (even more, as you’ll discover below) and often flies on dangerous routes, performing high-risk tasks in hostile environments and, last but not least, in bad weather conditions. No wonder they figure in the top 5 of the worst accidents in Helicopters' history: safety in a warzone is not guaranteed at all. 

On the other side, despite the recent tragic accident in Norway, the civil industry safety record is improving through the years: according to IHST, over the past decade, helicopter accidents have decreased. Before 2006 the number of incidents of helicopters in the world was growing at a rate of 2.5 percent/year, while the in last 10 years the figures lowered at 2 percent. That's why only one of the worst accidents we managed to resume in Helicopters' history crashed while performing a civil market operation. 

Here are the 5 worst accidents in Helicopters' history:

2002: Khankala Mi-26 crash

The worst accident in Helicopters’ history took place on Aug 19th, 1997. The crash involved a Russian Mi-26 military helicopter at Khankala, east of the Chechen capital Grozny. A Mil Mi-26 carrying onboard at least 140 soldiers (other sources reports 152 passengers) enlisted in the area crashed in a minefield after being hit by a 9K38 Igla shoulder-fired, heat-seeking surface-to-air missile fired by a group of Chechen separatists: 127 people were killed.

The accident eventually placed political pressure on President Vladimir Putin, who faced criticism over the decline of the Russian armed forces.

Two years later, a 27-year-old Grozny resident was found guilty of planning and carrying out "an act of terror" and sentenced to life imprisonment for "terrorism, premeditated murder with special cruelty, banditry, and attempted murder of servicemen".

1997: Israeli helicopter Disaster

A day of mourn of a nation: the Israeli helicopter disaster occurred on February 4th, 1997. Two Israeli Air Force Sikorsky S-65C-3 Yas'ur 2000 (an Israeli version of the CH-53) transport helicopters ferrying Israeli soldiers into Israel's "security zone" in southern Lebanon collided mid-air, killing all 73 Israeli military personnel on board. The crash brought about widespread national mourning, and it is considered a leading factor in its decision to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000.

The cause of the middle air collision has yet to be definitively ascertained. An Israeli investigation managed to find that the main rotor of one of the S-65s had struck the tail of the other triggering the disaster: the first one immediately crashed, while the crew of the latter attempted to take control of it, but failed, and it crashed as well.

A government commission of inquiry ruled out any mechanical or technical malfunction in both the helicopters.

1977: Disaster of the 54

Two of the worst accident in Helicopters’ history incidentally took place in Israel. Twenty years before the Lebanon CH-53s mid-air collision, another CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter was involved in a crash during an exercise operation in the Jordan Valley, killing all 54 on board

The cause of the crash, which took place on May 10th 1977, has never been discovered.

The Sea Stallion flew into a hill on West Bank, but the cause of the crash, which took place on May 10th 1977, has never been discovered. The accident since became known in Israel as “Ason Hanun-dalet”, or "Disaster of the 54".

1968: Hai Lang Forest Disaster

A Vietnam War disaster which lies quite unknown to the big public. As Aviation Safety Network managed to find, the Hai Lang Forest Disaster took place on January 8th , 1968, and involved a Marines' Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion.

The helicopter was carrying 46 people onboard during a regular transport operation (in bad weather conditions) when it went missing after disappearing during an IFR flight. SAR crews managed to find the heavily burned CH-53 wreck only ten days after the crash: nobody survived the accident.

1986: British International Helicopters Chinook crash


The Sumburgh disaster is the deadliest accident in the European helicopter industry. The crash took place on November 6th, 1986, when a Boeing 234LR Chinook (Photo: 1986 Chris Chennell) helicopter crashed into the sea and sank. The helicopter was on approach to land at Sumburgh Airport Shetland Islands carrying returning workers from the Brent oilfield.

The accident claimed the life of 45 people: according to safety reports, the events triggered at 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from the runway, when the Boeing 234LR Chinook helicopter had a catastrophic forward transmission failure which de-synchronised the twin rotors causing the blades to collide.  

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