3 Frightening Helicopter Fails (And How To Avoid Them)

3 Frightening Helicopter Fails (And How To Avoid Them)

As any pilot will tell you, helicopter fails are no laughing matter. With a rotorcraft, you’re constantly at war with gravity itself, and any minor miscalculation or error in judgment can lead to disastrous, life-threatening results. This is why we’re not here to entertain you with “silly bloopers” or deadly crashes. If that’s what you’re after, please go look elsewhere.

Rather, the goal of this article is to show you three different videos of helicopter fails—one during takeoff, one during landing, and one during routine ground transportation—so you can learn from their unfortunate mistakes. And hopefully, this will shine a light on the importance of using the right ground handling equipment and make you a safer helicopter pilot in the process.


Be warned: This video contains a horrific crash and may not be suitable for all viewers.

What Went Wrong

This first helicopter fail was captured by a security camera in Little Rock, Arkansas. According to official reports, the pilot was testing a new battery in the aircraft when (at about the 1:15 mark) a gust of straight-line wind caused him to lose control. In an attempt to regain control of the aircraft and land, one of the skids caught the dolly, causing the helicopter to flip over and crash into the pavement.

The pilot suffered a severe head injury but was taken to a local hospital and ultimately survived the incident. The helicopter, unsurprisingly, was damaged beyond repair.

How This Incident Could Have Been Avoided

There are several things that contributed to this helicopter crash:

  1. The helicopter dolly should have been properly chocked. This caused the entire platform to move and likely led to the pilot’s panicked recovery attempt.
  2. The helicopter should have been directly on the ground. Had the dolly not been beneath the helicopter, the pilot may have been able to land safely.
  3. The area shouldn’t have been so confined. In emergency scenarios like this, pilots are often taught to nose over and fly out of dangerous situations. However, as you can see in the video, the helicopter is closely surrounded by vehicles, trees, buildings, and a fence, leaving the pilot with nowhere to go. The addition of a lawn care worker so close to an operational helicopter means this incident could have been much, much worse.


What Went Wrong

The most cringeworthy helicopter fails are the ones that don’t involve vertical flight, as is the case here. In the video, a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is being towed onto a ship in a way that can only be described as “against standard procedure.”

Due to the sheer size and weight of the aircraft, two towing vehicles can be seen daisy-chained together to try to get it up the inclined ramp. At around the 0:27 mark, the towbar comes loose from the front landing gear, causing the helicopter to slide back down the ramp, narrowly—and fortunately—avoiding several crew members and any significant damage in its descent.

How This Incident Could Have Been Avoided

There are multiple errors that contributed to this helicopter mishap:

  • The towbar needed to be properly secured. This loose connection allowed the helicopter’s front landing gear to break free during transport.
  • A larger horsepower vehicle should have been employed. The two vehicles used were far too small to tow a helicopter of this size.
  • There should have been someone in the cockpit. Once the towbar came loose, a pilot could have ridden the brakes to avoid rolling back down the ramp.


What Went Wrong

As far as bad helicopter landings go, this one could have been A LOT worse. Fortunately, the pilot in this case was smart enough to recognize that their initial landing attempt was too risky and chose to pull out and circle around to try again (around the 0:50 mark).

Thankfully, the pilot’s second attempt was much more successful as they managed to safely land the helicopter on the dolly and cut the engine without further incident.

How This Incident Could Have Been Avoided

Landing a helicopter on the ground in perfect weather is hard enough as it is. So why on Earth would you ask a pilot to land on a tiny, raised platform that’s barely larger than the skids? And if you throw strong winds or other inclement weather into the mix, what you’re asking the pilot to do is next to impossible and flat-out DANGEROUS!

Fortunately for helicopter pilots and owners, a much safer ground handling method exists—Chopper Spotter’s line of premium powered helicopter tugs.


Navigating several tons and millions of dollars worth of machinery is a serious task—and one that requires a smart, user-friendly solution. That’s where Chopper Spotter comes in. Our helicopter tugs allow owners and operators to effortlessly move and position their helicopters in a way that is safer, more maneuverable, and more efficient–all via a wireless handheld control.

Request a quote today to start experiencing the ease, maneuverability, and unmatched safety of the industry’s best ground-handling equipment.

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