Helicopter Crash Over Hudson – NTSB Docket Open

In its continuing investigation of the midair collision of an air tour helicopter and a small plane over the Hudson River, the National Transportation Safety Board will open the public docket on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 10 a.m. 

On August 8, 2009, at 11:53 a.m. EDT, a Eurocopter AS 350 BA (N401LH) operated by Liberty Helicopters and a Piper PA-32R- 300 (N71MC) operated by a private pilot, collided in midair over the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. The certificated commercial pilot and five passengers onboard the helicopter were killed. The certificated private pilot and two passengers onboard the airplane were also killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plans were filed for either flight. The local sightseeing helicopter flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 136. The personal airplane flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

The information being released is factual in nature and does not provide any analysis. The docket includes: investigative group factual reports, interview summaries, crew statements, air traffic control transcripts, controller statements, the meteorology report, and other documents.     Additional material will continue to be added to the docket as it becomes available. Analysis of the accident, along with conclusions and a determination of probable cause, will come at a later date when the final report on the investigation is completed.

2 Pilots Seriously Injured in Hawaii

On December 16, 2009, about 1329 Hawaiian standard time, an Aerospatiale AS350BA helicopter, N87EW, operated by Sunshine Helicopters, Inc., Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, experienced a total loss of engine power in cruise flight on the island of Maui. In an autorotative descent, the pilot made a forced landing about 1.3 miles southeast of the Hana (uncontrolled) airport. The helicopter impacted hard on uneven, downsloping, terrain and was destroyed. The commercial certificated pilot-in-command and the check pilot, who held an airline transport pilot certificate, were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company flight plan was filed. The instructional flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and it originated from the Kahului Airport about 1257.

The check pilot was the operator’s assigned Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) principal operations inspector (POI). The purpose of the flight was for the POI to administer a 14 CFR Part 135.293 competency check to the pilot. Satisfactory completion of the check ride, and other requirements, would enable the pilot to continue operating on demand commercial air tours for his employer, Sunshine Helicopters, holder of an air carrier operating certificate.

According to Sunshine’s director of operations (DO), at the time of the flight the accident pilot was current in the operation of the helicopter. Several hours prior to the accident flight, the pilot had flown an air taxi flight in N87EW, and no maintenance squawks were noted. The helicopter operated normally, and it was dispatched for the pilot’s use later in the day for his FAA check ride.

Sunshine’s DO further indicated that during the check ride it was a customary procedure to simulate an engine failure. He opined that during the simulation the engine lost power. The power loss event appeared to have coincided with commencement of the simulation and the POI’s retardation of the helicopter’s fuel flow control (throttle).

The FAA coordinator reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that performance of a simulated loss of engine power during this type of check ride was an authorized routine procedure used in evaluating the competency of airmen.

The helicopter had been converted from its original manufactured AS350B type design. In part, the conversion involved installation of a Honeywell LTS101-600A-3A engine, modification of its electrical system and engine performance gauges, installation of a tail boom strake, and installation of modified tail rotor blades. The principal changes, commonly referred to as an “FX” conversion, altered the helicopter’s operating parameters as indicated by supplements included in the helicopter’s flight manual.

Safety Board Examination

The Safety Board investigation team is continuing its examination of selected helicopter components to ascertain their functionality. Also, a review is in progress regarding (1) pertinent FAA policies and procedures related to performance of power loss simulations during check rides, (2) requirements for familiarity with modified aircraft, (3) conformance with specified engine operational requirements, and (4) the POI’s familiarity with the AS350BA’s FX conversion in concert with Sunshine’s approved training program.

NTSB Looks at Hudson Midair Helicopter Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a Go Team to investigate today’s midair collision over the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey of a small airplane and a tourist helicopter.

At about noon today Eastern Daylight Time, a Piper PA32 (N71MC) and a Eurocopter AS350 (N401LH) collided and crashed into the Hudson River.  Local authorities report that they have found no survivors among the 9 persons believed to have been aboard both aircraft.

Senior NTSB Air Safety Investigator Robert Gretz will serve as Investigator-in-Charge of the 10-member team.  NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman will accompany the team and serve as principal spokesperson for the on-scene investigation.  Keith Holloway is the NTSB press officer joining the team in New York.

Bell 206B Copter Crash in Florida

Two Killed in Florida Helicopter Crash

On September 11, 2007, a Bell 206B registered to Biscayne Helicopter Inc. and operated by Southland Helicopters impacted into the ocean near Nokomis, Florida.  The commercial-rated pilot of the Bell 206B received serious injuries and two passengers received fatal injuries. The Bell helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter flight originated from the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, Sarasota, Florida, earlier that day, about 0840.

A witnesses on a boat stated that the helicopter was being used to take photos of the racing boat he was piloting for a boating magazine. The helicopter was flying at about seven to ten feet off the water, about 100 yards in front of and to the left of the boat. They were traveling about 85 mph. The helicopter was flying pretty much straight ahead, but maybe crabbing about 5 degrees so that the right door was a little more visible.

The pilot was flying the helicopter from the right seat. One of the passengers was in the left front seat and the other passenger, the photographer, was taking pictures out the right rear door opening, sort of leaning out the door. The photographer is usually connected to a harness strap attached to the inside of the helicopter. We were traveling directly into a very mild head wind of 5 mph or less.

The seas were calm and nearly flat, especially closer to shore. As he was following the helicopter with the boat, it (the helicopter) seemed to get a little lower in altitude, which I felt, was lower than I had ever seen it. Then it rose back up slightly and immediately started descending until it hit the water. It seemed almost as if it glided in at consistent angle; it appeared that the first contact with the water was the front radius section of the right skid. Immediately, the helicopter tumbled vertically to where the bottom of the aircraft was seen for a split second.

The helicopter then disintegrated violently and immediately with water, parts and debris flying into the path of the boat which was still traveling at a speed of about 85 mph. He instinctively turned the boat to the right and ducked down. The passenger, in the boat with him, also ducked as they passed through the flying debris and wreckage. He recalled the sound of pieces of the helicopter hitting the boat as they passed. At this point they were already turning in a clockwise direction. They continued in the circle 270 degrees back to where the helicopter had crashed. He pulled up just seaward of the debris field, put the boat in neutral and shut of the motors.

The witness called 911 on the cell phone at 10 AM; according to the call log in his cell phone. He reported a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico south or outside of Big Pass. He was actually not aware that they were as close to Venice as they were.

The helicopter’s top section, instrument panels, engine, transmission, dive shaft, tail boom, bottom section, skids, and rotor head with sections of the main rotor blades were recovery from under the water, relative to the point of impact. The damage to the recovered components was consistent with a high speed impact. The helicopter’s four doors were retrieved; they were removed and left at the fix base operations facility from where the helicopter departed from before the accident flight.

Crews Recover Bodies From Sightseeing Tour AS355 Helicopter Crash

Rescue crews completed the dangerous task Saturday of retrieving the bodies of seven people killed Friday in a tour helicopter crash on Maui.

The crash of the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters twin-engine AS355 occurred on a steep mountain hillside in a remote area of Iao Valley. Photos of the crash scene provided by police show the tail section intact but the rest of the helicopter disintegrated into thousands of pieces.

The crash site has a deep slope of about 30 degrees, and is a wet and slick area, making it difficult for crews to gain access, said Lt. John Morioka, a spokesman for the Maui Police Department.

“There’s no place a helicopter can land, so the men are rappelling down,” he said.

A 10-man crew rappelled down from the helicopter to a ridge and then set new lines to rappel to the site at the 2,700-foot level, Morioka said.

Among the recovery team are a master rappeller and crews who take part in eradicating marijuana from remote areas, he said.

George Petterson, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Saturday morning that recovery of the bodies would continue during the day, with recovery of the wreckage scheduled for today.

He said he will review pilot and maintenance records, and meet with representatives of the helicopter and engine manufacturers who are en route to the island.

“We really need to look at all the parts and pieces and look at the whole picture,” he said. He expects to issue a preliminary report in about five days.

Dental records were used to identify the pilot as Larry Kirsh, 55, police said.

The names of the other victims were to be released after they are positively identified through their dental records, which are to arrive Monday, said Richard Sword, a Maui psychologist handling disaster stress control for the families of victims.

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram identified two of the victims as 14-year-old girlfriends Whitney Wood of Burleson, Texas, and Natalie Prince of Fort Worth, Texas.

A Honolulu television station quoted unidentified sources as identifying the four remaining passengers as a family from New Jersey — William John Jordan, his wife, Jan Hortivick, and their two children, Max Jordan, 17, and Linsey Jordan, 16.

Families of the six passengers have been notified and some are already on the island, Morioka said.

The crash occurred during a 35-minute sightseeing tour of the West Maui mountains.

Kirsh was a Vietnam veteran with more than 11,000 hours of flight time and had been with the company more than a year, said Patti Chevalier, co-owner of the company with her husband, Dave, a former Vietnam scout pilot.

This is the first accident involving a Blue Hawaiian tour helicopter since the company began operations in 1985.

This was Hawaii’s third notable aircraft crash in 11 months. On Sept. 25, a tour plane crashed on the slopes of Mauna Loa on the Big Island, killing all 10 people on board.

On May 10, a private jet slammed into a hillside while approaching an airport on Molokai, killing all six people on board.