The National Transportation Safety Board reports nearly 500 lives were lost in aviation crashes last year. In light of a recent local helicopter crash, Fox 34 looked into the safety measures of taking the sky.
David Guertsloh, 59, walked away from a hard landing Tuesday at Slaton Municipal Airport.
"A 2004 Robinson helicopter was attempting to land on a skid," Corporal John Gonzalez with the Texas Department of Public Safety said. "He failed to negotiate and lost control of the chopper. It went over onto its side, the propellers caught, and burst into flames."
Veteran pilot with Hub City Aviation Louie Hilliard said even the most seasoned pilots can encounter unexpected emergencies, and experience is only part of the equation.
"Certainly somebody who has more experience has the advantage of that experience and additional knowledge that can help prevent those accidents," Hilliard said, "but still, things can and do go wrong from time to time."
Hilliard is an instructor for all levels of training, and while he said planes and helicopters are different, one thing does not change.
"Safety is a part of every lesson."
He said mishaps are usually caused by a chain of events, and he and his team try to teach trainees how to isolate problems.
"Maybe they took off when the conditions weren't right, or were above their abilities," Hilliard said. "Perhaps they should have chosen a different runway. So there is a lot of decision making that goes into accident prevention."
According to the NTSB, 2011 saw a record number of aviation accidents in the U.S.