Vertical’s 10 biggest stories of 2019

As the year — and the decade — come to a close, we review the 10 biggest helicopter stories of 2019 on News from the OEMs about aircraft upgrades, new concepts and program progress are a few of the big announcements that made this year’s list. And as with past years, stories that touched on safety in the industry this year were popular with our readers.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the Top 10 helicopter stories on in 2019 (click on the titles to read the original articles).

10. The offshore helicopter industry: Treading water

Dan Megna Photo


Vertical contributor Ken Swartz took a look at the trends over the last five years in the offshore helicopter industry — which has taken a beating since world oil prices collapsed in 2014 — and what the future of offshore holds for helicopter operators.

9. CityAirbus demonstrator performs tethered first takeoff 

CityAirbus team with concept aircraft
Airbus Photo

Airbus’s electric urban air mobility demonstrator, CityAirbus, achieved a key milestone in its demonstration program in May 2019: a tethered “jump” that was conducted from Airbus’s facilities in Donauwörth, Germany. The OEM is now working to expand the flight envelope of the aircraft in a restricted airspace in Manching, Germany.

8. Passenger alcohol use and ‘shoe selfies’ may have played role in deadly FlyNYON photo flight 

The accident helicopter was recovered from the East River on March 12. NTSB Photo
NTSB Photo

Vertical contributor Eric Adams followed the investigation into a fatal FlyNYON doors-off helicopter flight that crashed into New York City’s East River in March 2018. The passenger who inadvertently cut off fuel to the engine during the flight was reportedly under the influence of alcohol at the time. Documents also confirmed that, in the moments before the aircraft plunged toward the East River, the passenger had been working feverishly to obtain “shoe selfies.”

7. Massive airlift operation rescues hundreds of cruise ship passengers in Norway 

Eva Frisnes Photo

Nearly 500 cruise ship passengers onboard the Viking Sky were evacuated by helicopter in a dramatic rescue operation in Norway in March 2019. CHC Helicopter Norway contributed four helicopters to the rescue effort: two all-weather search-and-rescue-configured Sikorsky S-92s and two Airbus AS332s.

6. Does the helicopter industry have a people problem?

Mike Reyno Photo

At HAI Heli-Expo 2018, academics from the University of North Dakota announced a predicted shortfall of 7,649 helicopter pilots and 40,613 mechanics (across all aviation sectors) in the U.S. between 2018 and 2036. Vertical‘s Oliver Johnson dove into some of the problems the helicopter industry is facing, and what a solution might be.

5. Norway AW101 accident report cites human, organizational factors

A Leonardo AW101 search-and-rescue helicopter owned by the Royal Norwegian Air Force rests on its side after a failed ground run on Sola Airport near Stavanger, Norway, Nov. 25, 2017.
Carina Johansen/AP Images Photo

In November 2017, a Norwegian AW101-612 rescue helicopter rolled over during start-up. The release of the Norwegian Accident Investigation Board’s report on the incident highlighted human and organizational factors that contributed to the event, which caused comprehensive damage to the aircraft. It was the first of 16 AW101s to be delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

4. Airbus Helicopters launches 5-bladed H145 upgrade

The test program has included flights in the Pyrenees Mountain (pictured), and it recently completed a cold weather campaign in Finland. Airbus Helicopters Photo
Airbus Helicopters Photo

One of the biggest announcements at Heli-Expo 2019 was the launch of a five-bladed upgrade to the popular H145 light twin. Vertical‘s Oliver Johnson was invited to Donauworth, the site of the H145’s production, to get a detailed brief of how the development came to be, and what it offers customers: most notably, an increase of 330 pounds useful load.

3. Stealth rollout: Boeing keeps Army attack helicopter concept secret

Boeing AUSA booth
Dan Parsons Photo


Dan Parsons gave his take on the under-wraps concept Boeing has submitted for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). While few details of Boeing’s aircraft are known, program leaders gave a general update on how its progressing. “It’s competition-sensitive, our approach right now,” Boeing FARA program manager Shane Openshaw said. “Our approach is not to necessarily be out in the public sphere pumping our chest. We are quietly and aggressively pursuing that requirement and staying in touch with the Army.”

2. Test pilots say Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider handles like a sportscar

Sikorsky S-97 Raider
Eric Adams Photo

Vertical contributor Eric Adams attended Sikorsky’s first public demonstration of the S-97 Raider, where the program’s test pilots displayed the aircraft’s speed and unique maneuverability. They then told journalists what the aircraft was like to fly. “It really handles like a sportscar,” test pilot Christiaan Corry said. “The rotor system acts like a wing, and we can do these aerobatic maneuvers that just aren’t things helicopters could ever do before.”

1. A fighting chance: Surviving pilot incapacitation

Air Evac Lifeteam Photo

The amazing story of how an Air Evac Lifeteam crew survived a pilot incapacitation event was our most read story of the year.  Shortly after lifting off from a scene call, the pilot of a Bell 206L LongRanger suffered a medical emergency that required the flight paramedic to climb into the cockpit and find a way to land the aircraft. The flight nurse and flight paramedic on board the aircraft that day tell Vertical’s Elan Head how events unfolded and how the incident has had a lasting impact.

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