Attorneys Who Will Fight for Justice for Helicopter Tour Crash Victims and Their Families

Attorneys Ladd Sanger and Mike SlackA growing number of tourist destinations now offer sightseeing helicopters which provide travelers with spectacular views and a new perspective. Unfortunately, there are many risks associated with this type of flight because many pilots don’t go through the extensive training required of their commercial counterparts, weather conditions can change quickly, and terrain and conditions can be both unique and challenging. In addition, a shortage of helicopter pilots and mechanics often results in poorly maintained equipment and less qualified individuals in the cockpit.

What some passengers assume will be an exceptional experience can suddenly turn tragic in the event of an accident, with resulting life-altering injuries, and even death. If you or a family member has been involved in a helicopter tour crash, you can rely on the team of compassionate attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger to help bring you the justice and compensation that you deserve, while also fighting for industry reforms.

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Perils of Helicopter Tours 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 128 helicopter sightseeing accidents occurred from 2001 to 2010—an alarmingly large number. In 17 of these incidents, there were fatalities. Because helicopters are designed to move in all directions and hover, this type of aircraft is less stable than a plane and is equipped with more navigational features. More moving parts means more risks, which is unfortunate, since these types of aircraft have fewer restrictions on maintenance and pilot training minimums.

Other reasons that helicopter tour passengers are at a higher risk for life-altering injury, and even death, in the event of an accident include:

  • Greatly reduced visibility when flying at night
  • Some models aren’t equipped with doors, and/or have difficult-to-release safety harnesses
  • Rough terrain and unlevel ground makes an emergency landing difficult
  • Inadequate safety regulations

Managing partner, Ladd Sanger, is a licensed helicopter pilot who understands the complexities of helicopters, as well as many other types of aircraft. He leads our team of helicopter accident attorneys and writes extensively regarding new regulations and aircraft safety.

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helicopter tour over ocean

Causes of Helicopter Tour Accidents

There are many factors that can play a role in a helicopter accident and help explain why this mode of transportation can be more dangerous.

The most common reasons helicopter tours are involved in serious accidents include:

  • Inadequate helicopter maintenance if tour operators prioritize profits over passenger safety
  • Pilot error, such as failing to adequately fuel up before the flight, losing control of the helicopter, or failing to spot an obstacle, such as a tree or a mountainside
  • Pilot distraction
  • Sudden weather changes that affect stability and visibility
  • Inexperienced or improperly trained pilots
  • Manufacturer defects

Since a majority of all aviation accidents occur on takeoff or landing, and helicopters tend to do both more frequently than other types of aircraft, these accidents are even more likely. While Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials have encouraged a move towards tighter regulations for pilots and helicopter manufacturers, not enough is being done to prevent these tragedies.

If you or a family member has been involved in a helicopter tour crash, you can turn to the compassionate attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger to seek justice. With decades of experience and licensed pilots leading the charge, our team understands the complexities of helicopters. We also have the resources at our disposal to help you fight for the compensation you deserve while advocating for changes to prevent future tragic accidents.

Human Error in Helicopter Crashes

The term “pilot error” includes various mistakes a pilot may make while operating any type of aircraft. These mistakes include both tactical errors, which are the result of poor decision making, and operational errors, which are the result of poor training. Helicopter tour pilots in particular are at a higher risk of making these types of misjudgments which can often lead to catastrophic consequences.

However, human error is not limited to helicopter tour pilots. Air traffic controllers, as well as those that maintain helicopters, can be found liable in helicopter tour crashes. As is the case in other types of aviation accidents, human error is the most common cause of a helicopter tour crash.

A few examples of poor judgment that can lead to an otherwise avoidable helicopter tour accident include:

  • Insufficient planning prior to flight take off, including not cancelling tours due to poor weather conditions
  • Inadequate communication with air traffic controllers
  • Insufficient fuel prior to taking off
  • Pilots with improper training flying helicopters with features they are unfamiliar with

Helicopter Crashes in Hawaii

With volcanoes, cliffs, and beaches, Hawaii is a popular spot for helicopter tours. What visitors may not realize, however, is that the weather changes frequently and without much warning, making it difficult to predict when conditions will be unsafe for a tour. Additionally, because of the differences in terrain, pilots must understand the unique microclimates that exist in the areas in which they fly to better ensure a safe flight. Helicopters that take off during or after sunset do so with more limited visibility for the pilot, adding an additional layer of danger onto what is already a hazardous mode of transportation.

Unfortunately, helicopter tour companies may use less expensive helicopters in order to increase profits. This often means purchasing aircraft with fewer safety features or a more dangerous track record. The Robinson R-44 is one example of a cost-effective helicopter model utilized by many Hawaiian helicopter tour companies. More than 600 fatalities have been linked to this type of aircraft since 1982. Over 65 wrongful death and product liability lawsuits have been filed against Robinson for ignoring safety issues with these helicopters, including a number filed by attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger.

helicopter tour in grand canyonGrand Canyon Helicopter Crashes

The jagged edges and cliffs in the Grand Canyon can lead to unpredictable gusts of wind that are strong enough to push a helicopter off its path. With steep canyons, inexperienced pilots, and heavy air traffic, the Grand Canyon frequently makes news headlines for helicopter tour crashes.

While there are more restrictions on helicopter tours in the Grand Canyon, many unregulated helicopter tour companies have found loopholes that allow them to take visitors around the park without violating FAA rules. With anywhere from 350 to 400 reservations a day for these helicopter tours, regulators are struggling to enforce existing regulations.

In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration was created in response to a midair collision that occurred in the Grand Canyon back in 1956. Since its inception, the FAA has outlawed flights that dip below the Canyon rim and mandated a fifty-foot buffer zone between aircraft and potential obstacles. Even with the FAA’s efforts, dangerous conditions still exist and accidents are taking place all too often with heartbreaking results.

Specialized Knowledge in the Aviation Industry

Our team of helicopter crash attorneys is made up of licensed pilots and a former NASA aerospace engineer, allowing us to have a better understanding of what happened in these tragedies and how to prevent future disasters. Our skilled lawyers work tirelessly for our clients to bring them the justice they deserve. We are compassionate and attentive, and have the resources needed to seek compensation from those who were responsible so victims and their families can focus on what can be a long and emotional recovery. We have tried and settled aviation cases in 47 different states and can bring this extensive knowledge to your case.

What to Know Prior to Boarding a Tour Helicopter

If you are planning on taking a helicopter tour, there are some precautions you can take to help lower your risks. When doing your research, keep the following in mind:

  • Look for a company with a good safety rating and reputation. Ideally, look for a helicopter tour provider that is certified as an FAA Part 135 Air Carrier, which means they are held to higher standards than other non-certified helicopter tour companies.
  • Use the Federal Aviation Administration Accident & Incident Data report or the NTSB’s Aviation Accident Database to search for any accidents the helicopter tour company may have been involved with.
  • Read through pilot information on helicopter tour websites. Ask for a pilot with extensive experience and review their qualifications.
  • Check weather reports leading up to the day of your tour to ensure clear skies. Opt not to take the tour if the weather is questionable.
  • With helicopter tours, choose a company with experience over one that is less expensive. Operators with lower prices often have aircraft with fewer safety features and less experienced pilots.

Although you can never be guaranteed safe travels when aboard a helicopter tour, performing proper research could make a world of difference.

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    Larry McLerran

  • "It was obvious to me, very early in the process, that my family was in need of an advocate that could match the legal resources of the airline involved. Through the recommendation of a family attorney in Austin, I was most fortunate to contact Mike Slack with Slack Davis Sanger LLP. I had not been on the phone with Mike for more than 10 minutes when I knew that this was the man and legal team that would represent my family."

    Victor McLerran

  • "Our firm has worked with the attorneys and staff at Slack Davis Sanger since the firm was formed in 1993. They have assisted our clients with personal injury matters and have served as our co-counsel in planning for our clients’ personal aircraft ownership and operations issues and needs. Our experience and our clients’ experience with Slack Davis Sanger has been outstanding. We recommend the firm highly and always look forward to working with the lawyers and staff there."

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    Saunders, Norval, Nichols & Atkins, L.L.P.
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  • "Slack Davis Sanger came highly recommended to me by a colleague. From my first meeting with Mike Davis, I knew my sisters and I had made the right choice. Emotionally, dealing with the situation was difficult for us. Slack Davis Sanger managed all of the details and people day-to-day, involving us only when necessary. This law firm delivered — and more."

    Kyle Smith

  • "I first met Mike Slack when I mediated a case involving a plane crash in which Mike represented the plaintiff. I was very impressed with his knowledge, preparation, and approach. More than a year later, I asked Mike to investigate a matter for a family member of mine. He handled the investigation with skill, tenacity, and care. I think Mike is a terrific lawyer."

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  • "Caring, sincere, genuine, loyal, dependable, reliable, trustworthy, compassionate, extremely knowledgeable, and resourceful. How can I ever thank Mike Slack and his legal assistant enough? They went out of their way — even meeting with us at the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House."

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  • "During the ultimate mediation process, you demonstrated the confidence, expertise and determination to do what was best for all of us while helping to guide our decisions during what was a very emotional time. While our lives will never be the same without our beloved father, we are grateful for a settlement which allows us to do something positive in our lives while honoring his memory."

    Theresa M.

  • "On behalf of my siblings and I, we thank you and your team for taking on our case following our father’s passing from a tragic vintage plane crash in Arizona. As you know, we were originally working with another firm and just getting started when a family member referred us, insisting you were the best choice for our situation. With one phone consultation, I knew you were the one who would take care of us. During the time of our first call, I found you to be professional, fair, understanding, and, most of all, you confirmed my instincts on how a settlement would be processed given all the family dynamics and other concerns (i.e., multiple states, multiple claimants, etc.). I immediately felt you would have our backs and best represent our family."

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  • "I am still amazed at how, through this difficult legal process, Mike Slack and his team consistently maintained a diligent direction to resolve this case in our best interest. We experienced an extraordinary sense of grace and humanity as we struggled through this tragedy. These are truly extraordinary people with extraordinary ability."

    Victor McLerran

  • "I would like to thank all of your team, who I felt went above and beyond to take care of us and to be great listeners, even when I’d fall apart on the phone speaking about my father. I would highly recommend you and your firm to anyone in a similar situation, and I would be happy to speak to any prospective clients to provide a verbal reference."

    Theresa M.

  • "Thank you for all of your help with this case. This has been a difficult process and I couldn’t have done it without you."

    Charlotte L.

  • "Thank you again for all of your good help. Since losing Nick, the love of my life, it has been an emotional roller coaster, but I am making progress and standing strong as he would want me to do. Aside from all of the other estate things I have had to attend to, through this law case, your efficient and thoughtful communications have been very kind and helpful. You have performed your job perfectly."

    Sandra T.

  • "I am still amazed at how, through this difficult legal process, Mike Slack and his team consistently maintained a diligent direction to resolve this case in our best interest. We experienced an extraordinary sense of grace and humanity as we struggled through this tragedy. These are truly extraordinary people with extraordinary ability."

    Victor McLerran

  • "When we got into this I had no idea what to expect. You have all been honest and supportive through this whole process. This whole time I have felt like someone was on our side. That is not something we get very often. I can only hope that if someday you need something from me...I can deliver like you all have for us. If you ever need a reference, no one could explain it like me. We love the fact that your team is still fighting the good fight. I hope you nail those bastards until they have no choice but to fix the problem and make sure it never happens again."

    Kathleen C.


Why Slack Davis Sanger?

What We Offer

Decades of Experience

Extensive experience researching, analyzing, settling, and litigating hundreds of air crash cases.

Skilled Lawyers

Gifted legal professionals with a keen understanding of the collection of state, national, and international laws that can be applied on behalf of clients pursuing aviation wrongful death and survivor actions.

Aviation Industry Insights

Unique perspective on the dangers and risks of flying and technical aspects of a crash from attorneys who are also pilots and a former aerospace engineer.

Knowledge of Jurisdictions

A keen understanding of the relationship between filing your claim in a certain location and garnering an advantageous outcome.

24/7 Dedication

An unwavering focus on exploring all avenues to pursue the the wisest legal strategy in order to get you the settlement or verdict you deserve.

Reputation & Track Record

A reputation and track record that demonstrate how we take care of our clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

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