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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Helicopter Crash

Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

I must admit that news of a second helicopter crash in the Kimberley inside two weeks has given me some goose bumps. I flew with Slingair, the first to lose their machine in a quadruple fatality over the Bungle Bungles, on a fixed wing charter after a week aboard True North where I made numerous flights in their now sunken Bell 407.

True North's machine was like brand new to me and flew faultlessly throughout the cruise. All passengers wore automatically-inflating life jackets and the great big doors were easy to get in and out of. Thankfully, no one lost their lives in what must have been a hair-raising event. There is some mystery however, as to why the flotation devices attached to the landing gear did not activate and an investigation is now under way.

So what does this mean for the many expedition vessels that employ helicopters either onboard or as optional flight-seeing tours? Helicopters add an extra dimension to any cruise experience and are invaluable on many polar itineraries.

There is a degree of risk assessment in any form of travel and helicopters are nowhere near the top of any 'most dangerous transport' list. Statistics are traditionally dominated by the rattly minibus and motorcycle, even crossing the road rates way up there, especially in SE Asia, Africa and the sub-continent. I, for one, will continue to fly in helicopters and light aircraft knowing that the taxi ride to the airport will constitute the single highest risk factor on any given trip.

No matter where you are or what you're doing, assess the risk, enjoy yourself and travel safely.

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