December 1, 2010

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded its investigation into the 2008 helicopter crash that killed nine and injured four firefighters and crew members. The 11 firefighters and the pilot were from Oregon; a California-based inspector pilot was also on board. The board’s hearing this week included a litany of “failures and missed opportunities,” but clearly placed most of the blame on the company that operated the helicopter service. At the end of the day, the mother of one of the men who died said that the findings were “very disturbing.” When the accident happened, she said, she actually thought, “Accidents happen.” No more.

The weight of the helicopter and the maximum weight it could carry were the main causes of the crash. According to the NTSB, the service company intentionally understated the aircraft’s empty weight. The manufacturer also altered the chart of the helicopter’s “lift capability,” according to the board. The altered chart gave operators the impression that the helicopter could carry more weight than it actually could.

The board also criticized the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration, saying the agencies did not monitor safety aggressively and neither monitored nor reviewed the helicopter company’s operations. As a result, the agencies failed to recognize obvious warning signs in the service provider’s systems.

Finally, the board said that pilot error was also a factor in the crash. The pilot had used “unapproved methods based on inaccurate baseline data” — data supplied by the service company — to calculate the helicopter’s weight before take-off.

Continued in our next post.

Source: The Oregonian “NTSB Lambasts Carson Helicopters of Grants Pass in 2008 Crash That Killed 9 Firefighters” 12/7/10


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