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Utility Wire Helicopter Inspections

"Attorney Gary Robb is by far the most successful helicopter crash trial lawyer in the country"
       Forbes Magazine
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Author of THE authoritative text

Our law firm has handled many utility wire helicopter crashes over the years.

Helicopters are being used increasingly in the utilities industry for the inspection and maintenance of their transmission lines. That industry is also using helicopter crews to collect data for system quality and for transmission line maintenance planning. These utilities also use helicopters for line inspections, stringing wire, setting poles and for placing crews and equipment in areas otherwise inaccessible.

This flight mission brings the helicopter in close proximity to horizontally strung utility lines or telephone wires. These are typically difficult for helicopter pilots to see and are especially hazardous to a helicopter. Many crashes have resulted from the helicopter pilot’s inadvertent flight into wires. Utility companies routinely hire private helicopter operators to inspect these lines or wires. Some utilities have begun purchasing and operating their own helicopters. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority currently owns and operates seven helicopters.

Flying a helicopter in a low altitude environment where wires are present requires a degree of skill which is more complex and demanding than other types of helicopter flying. Nothing about the common helicopter flight mission experience prepares pilots for operating in that wire environment. There is no FAA examination of a helicopter pilot for proficiency or competency flying a helicopter in a wire environment such as in the course of conducting utility line inspections.

A number of specific safety precautions can be undertaken to dramatically reduce the incidents of helicopter wire strike. Wire Strike Protection Systems (WSPS) provide some measure of protection from inadvertent flight into horizontally strung wires but only where the helicopter strikes the wires while flying on a straight and level path. Pilots must know and understand the limitations of any WSPS installed on their helicopter.

Author of THE authoritative text

Various devices have been marketed which purport to provide wire strike protection in the event the helicopter flies into utility wires or cables. Such WSPS equipment consists of an upper cutter or scissor-like blade placed along the front of the helicopter’s nose in an upward angle and a lower cutter angled downward and affixed below the nose. These cutters are intended to guide any contacted wire to a jaw area which contains sharp saw-like blades.

Unfortunately, such systems provide only limited protection as the helicopter must be flying straight and level upon contact and they provide potential protection only from frontal strikes against horizontally strung wires. Where such a system had been installed on a helicopter and fails to provide an appropriate measure of protection against a wire strike, the manufacturer of such devices has been sued on theories of misrepresentation, fraud and design defect. In such a scenario, counsel must assess the specific warranties and representations made by the seller to determine whether they overpromised the degree of protection to be afforded.

For any utility wire inspection mission the helicopter pilot should not take on the added workload of flying the helicopter and inspecting wires. A separate spotter or observer should be tasked solely with the responsibility of inspecting wires leaving the pilot devoted to flight responsibilities.
Helicopter safety organizations such as Helicopter Association International (HAI) offer specific training sessions on wire strike avoidance. These sessions are taught by highly experienced helicopter pilots and provide tips and strategies for spotting and avoiding horizontally strung wires. These sessions include such lessons as understanding the configuration of utility poles and being aware of residential dwellings and other buildings which may be presumed to be supplied with electricity and, hence, connected by wire.

Stricter guidelines should be imposed on utility companies which operate in the vicinity of airports or known aircraft flight paths. These utility companies should be required to place marker balls on all utility wires in known flight paths so that they may be visible to helicopters routinely flying at low altitude.

Author of THE authoritative text

We wrote the book on helicopter crashes.

Helicopter Crash Litigation by Gary C. Robb was first published in 2010. The Second Edition of this acclaimed book has just been published in 2015.

"This book is an essential volume...by accomplished trial lawyer Gary Robb, who has used these same techniques in a brilliant career..."
       International Press Publications
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Our law firm has obtained the two (2) highest jury verdicts ever in helicopter crash trials:

$350 million Our law firm obtained the two (2) highest jury verdicts ever in helicopter crash trials: A $350 million verdict for a pilot killed in a life flight helicopter crash, and a separate $70 million verdict for a passenger killed in that same helicopter crash. This crash involved a Turbomeca helicopter engine which failed in flight due to a defect in the nozzle guide vane.


Our law firm has obtained the largest settlement in U.S. history for a single injury in a helicopter crash:

$38 million A $38 million settlement for a young woman severely injured in a touring helicopter crash at the Grand Canyon which is the highest settlement in U.S. history for a single helicopter crash injury. Defendants in the case included Papillon, Eurocopter and Turbomeca.


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Personal Injury Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

Examples of cases that a personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri can assist with include workplace accidents, falling or other accidents in the home, premises liability, defective and hazardous product cases, and dental and medical malpractice cases. If negligence on behalf of another party can be proved in court, compensation may be awarded.

Personal injury attorneys can also assist with industrial disease cases that may include respiratory diseases or a decline in health due to hazardous occupational conditions. These and other medical cases are often very complex, and it is advised that all aspects of the claim be handled by an experienced attorney.

Wrongful Death Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Wrongful death falls under the common law jurisdictions wherein a person may be held liable for a death. It is important to note that wrongful death is the only course of legal action in which a company, rather than an individual, is at fault for a death.

In Kansas City, Missouri, cases involving wrongful death accidents require a preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof. Generally, the suit is filed by close relatives.

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Robb & Robb LLC One Kansas City Place, Suite 3900 - 1200 Main Street , Kansas City , Missouri 64105

Telephone: 816-474-8080 Facsimile: 816-474-8081 Toll Free: 1-800-474-1339