Aviation: difference between "crash" and "crash-landing"?

Yesterday a helicopter, um, “came down” on the roof of a Manhattan skyscraper. Some news outlets are calling it a crash, others are calling it a crash-landing. Sometimes the same article calls it both ways. It’s worth noting that the helicopter in question was shattered into small, flaming pieces, and the pilot was killed.

Maybe this belongs in IMHO, I dunno. Is there a useful distinction between “crash” and “crash-landing”?

I read it as the difference between plummeting from the sky and a semi-controlled descent that ends badly.

Right. It’s one thing to hope that the landing won’t be too bad and another to wish the aircraft wasn’t going to be hitting the Earth soon and there’s nothing you can do about it (or, worse, don’t know you’re about to hit something).

One picture of the helicopter I saw was that it was coming down nose first. Which is not a good situation for a chopper. That’s a crash IMHO.

OTOH, if the pilot was in a horizontal position and was doing something like a free-spinning (autorotation) rotor landing on an open building top, then that was a crash landing.

I think a crash land is deliberate? The pilot is trying to get safely on the ground.

The other option is to fall out of the sky uncontrollably and crash.

Crash land

to land (an aircraft), undercircumstances in whicha normal landing is impossible, in such a way that damage to the aircraft is unavoidable.

I don’t believe the FAA or NTSB would use either as a term of art.

The terms they do use are “accident” and “incident” when something is serious enough to be report-able, and those depend on casualties, nature of injuries, type and amount of damage. When something happens that’s not great, but does not meet the criteria they generally call it an “event”.

What the media calls stuff is another matter.

Edit: A helo falls out of the sky and the media and witnesses will say it crashed. An NTSB report will use verbiage like, “The accident aircraft suffered an engine failure due to fuel exhaustion and impacted terrain.”

And specifically an “accident” is defined as an event “in which a) a person is fatally or seriously injured, b) the aircraft sustains significant damage or structural failure, or c) the aircraft goes missing or becomes completely inaccessible.”

An “incident” is “an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of operation.”

“Crash” and “crash landing” are vernacular terms that don’t have any official definitions. To the NTSB both of them would probably be categorized as “accidents” most of time. Perhaps a minor incident where say a plane skids off the runway at relatively low speed after landing, no injuries, and only minor damage to the plane might get categorized and an incident by the NTSB and a crash landing by a layperson.

While some organizations might use a precisely defined definition like this, the popular media has been using “accident” less often because the term has a connotation of “non-intentional or unpreventable”. For example, the airliner crashes on Sep 11, are not called “accidents” by anyone outside FAA or NTSB. Along similar lines, car crashes caused by drunk drivers are typically not called accidents, either. The media uses the more neutral term “crash” to avoid implying any lack of causality or agency if there is any doubt about the cause of the crash.