Did Kobe Bryant had to die today? Flyers right president Paul Hudson explained why 41-year-old NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old should not have died today along with 7 other passengers in this Southern California Helicopter crash Sunday.
Helicopter fuel tank fires and explosions are causing horrific injuries and deaths in numerous otherwise survivable helicopter accidents. They can be nearly entirely prevented with fuel tank bladders. Yet the industry dominated ARAC fails to recommend any retrofitting of the existing 9,000+ fleet and only limited requirements for newly manufactured helicopters.
Even US President Trump should be advised promptly of this helicopter industry proposed a new delay in helicopter safety standards for crashworthiness that is likely to be rubber-stamped by FAA bureaucrats. As a frequent helicopter traveler, President Trump knows this issue well as he has had several close calls.
Here is a what Flyersright president Paul Hudson wrote to President Trump and to Mr. Daniel Elwell Acting Administrator Federal Aviation Administration wrote on December 13, 2018:
December 13, 2018
Dear Administrator Elwell:
I write to strongly urge the FAA to reject the recommendations that helicopter crashworthy standards promulgated over 20 years ago, be again delayed yet again for 3-5 years to indefinitely. Fuel tank fires and explosions are causing horrific injuries and deaths in numerous otherwise survivable accidents. They can be nearly entirely prevented with fuel tank bladders. Yet the industry dominated ARAC fails to recommend any retrofitting of the existing 9,000+ fleet, and only limited requirements for newly manufactured helicopters.
Nearly three years ago, the FAA office dealing with helicopter safety issued an alarming report noting that deaths from helicopter crashes were not declining and the crashworthy standards issued by the FAA were only in effect in about 16% of the fleet after over 20 years. This was due to the loophole created by the FAA which failed to require compliance by any existing aircraft or any new aircraft unless it involved a new design.
These crash standards prevent fuel tank fires and reduce impact trauma from land crashes and deaths from drowning in water crashes. FlyersRights.org estimates the lack of air crash standard compliance causes over 50 unnecessary deaths annually worldwide.
In addition to unnecessary deaths, injuries can be horrific. In a recent crash, a survivor was burned over 90% of his body, resulting in a jury award of $100 million against the operator.
I have reviewed video clips of 15 recent helicopter crashes on Youtube From 2009-2017, there were 206 fatal accidents, totaling 323 US deaths mostly from fire. Just in the past year, the East River crash killed
All six young sight-seeing passengers as the aircraft tipped over and quickly sank drowning all passengers who were strapped in with no way to escape except by finding a hidden knife and cutting themselves free (only the pilot survived). In another recent crash the owner of a major UK soccer team was killed in a fuel tank explosion on impact leaving the stadium after a game. See attached video clip links. Overall, helicopter crashes occur with 100 times the frequency of commercial fixed wing aircraft.
The calculated benefit of retrofitting is $1 billion over 10 years and the cost of retrofitting would be far less, yet the recommendation is against any real or timely mandate, estimating 3-5 years for partial compliance after final rule adopted, if ever.
Even for upper torso harnesses that have minimal cost, the recommendation is not to mandate anything in less than 3-5 years.
Membership of the Working Group was not balanced or representative of relevant stakeholders.
The working group membership which is buried on page 107 of the report was dominated by helicopter industry reps and omitted any crash victims or their representatives, insurance carriers, safety device makers and innovators.
Accordingly, the conclusion that it would be impractical to retrofit 75% of the fleet with fuel tank bladders, as well as a dozen other fuel tank standards, is highly suspect and without proper foundation or justification. See pages 59 et seq. Indeed, there are a number of companies like Aero Tec Labs that specialize in bladder fuel tanks and replacement for aircraft and marine applications. The cost of retrofit requirements has been calculated to be as low as $4,000 to as high as $334,000 per unit for over 1000 aircraft. See p. 165 et seq. Yet there is no detail as to how these costs were calculated and who made the calculations. They appear to be meant to confuse and obscure the true cost of retrofitting rather than enlightening.
President Trump should be advised promptly of this helicopter industry proposed a new delay in helicopter safety standards for crashworthiness that is likely to be rubber-stamped by FAA bureaucrats. As a frequent helicopter traveler, President Trump knows this issue well as he has had several close calls. He narrowly escaped death in 1989 when he missed a helicopter flight with his top three casino executives that crashed in New Jersey killing all on board. In June 2017 a Trump organization helicopter had another fortunately non-fatal accident. Military helicopters have had so many fatal accidents that their death toll rivals those killed in combat.
In conclusion, you should with notice to President Trump and the public issue an airworthiness directive AD requiring all helicopters to be retrofitted within one year with bladder fuel tanks and quick release shoulder harnesses, and to implement the other crashworthiness standards or show cause why they cannot reasonably comply within two years. All new helicopters should be required to comply with crashworthiness standards. The cost can and should be borne in part the manufacturers who have benefitted by the lack of enforcement and cuts in the FAA budget devoted to delaying safety standards and granting waivers and exemptions to safety regulations.
Paul Hudson, President FlyersRights.org