Does the door often fall off helicopters?

I was present at an airshow in 2007, during which a door fell offan RAF Merlin helicopter onto the beach below. The guy who was closest in this video was lucky he wasn’t killed.

Then, this week, the door fell off another military helicopter, this time an Irish Air Corps AW139carrying a Government minister.

Both incidents were pretty high profile, with the first happening in front of a crowd of thousands, and the second involving someone with a high public profile. In another message board, when discussing the Galway incident, a poster mentioned he had seen this happen elsewhere with a Puma helicopter - see post #6 here.

We’re quite a small country, and for two such incidents to happen in a couple of years may just be a coincidence, but does this happen regularly and we just don’t hear about it?

On another messageboard, in this thread (SFW but very salty language), I read the tale of someone accidentally grabbing the door release handle instead of the door open handle.

Ah, found the particular tale on page 5

I spent most of my hours in an OH-58 (Bell Jetranger) with a bunch in OH-6s. There is a clearly marked emergency handle to remove the door. It is safety wired to make it hard to remove. On occasion a newbie will grab the wrong handle. Pretty hard to do in flight. Certainly not a usual occurrance. It is possible that a door can come partially opened and ripped off by airflow or rotorwash. On an OH-58 the doors are very light.

Thanks guys, loved that thread Quartz. In the incident where I was present, the helicopter was on static display for some hours beforehand, and TPTB came to the conclusion that a member of the public accidentally (?) pulled the door jettison lever before it took off. I would have thought it would be the sort of thing that would have been noted in pre-flight checks, especially considering the number of kids swarming around it for a couple of hours before.

A pilot acquaintance flew helicopters for 15 years and had just retired from that line of work, opting to fly jets instead. He explained to me that helicopters just vibrate too damn much, and it’s hard not to have things come off. He said that having flown them for 15 years without this problem killing him was already more than he was entitled to and he was not going to push his luck any further.

This is what he said - I don’t mean to claim it is accurate.

On another note, we were having the conversation when we had stopped for refueling in our small jet. The fuel was Texaco brand and I thought it would be pretty funny to use my Texaco card to pay for the $1600 purchase, just a couple of hours after I had used the card to fill my little car a thousand miles away, to see if they would flag the purchase as suspiscious - didn’t do it, tho…

That seems pretty plausible. And it is something they should have checked.

I was in mostly small helicopters, not the big luxurious corporate jobs. As long as you keep them in trim I wouldn’t say they vibrate any more than an airplane of the same size. Certainly a lot less than something like a Harley.

Were you in helicopters as a passenger too? When I was learning to drive, one lesson I found it very difficult to learn was to drive with the comfort of passengers in mind and not just myself.

>Certainly a lot less than something like a Harley.

I like this point. Harleys have a pretty devoted following, but if their riders fell out of the sky every time the engine quit, I bet that’d change…