Court Rules Controller At Fault For Fatal Midair

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Blaming an air traffic controller for the collision a U.S. District Judge early this month ordered the FAA to pay $4.5 million to the family of a flight instructor killed in a midair involving a Robinson R44 and a Robinson R22 Beta II at Torrance Municipal Airport. The accident took place in 2003 and the judge's decision, handed down early this month, stated that the controller offered the R22's student pilot confusing instructions that caused him to crash the helicopter he was flying into the R44 flown by the instructor. The NTSB found in 2007 probable cause of the accident was "the failure of the pilot of the R22 [the student pilot] to comply with an ATC clearance." Both pilots were killed in the crash and a third person was seriously injured.

Multiple directions had been issued by the controller to the student pilot flying the R22 from a helipad north of Runway 29R to his parking area south of runway 29L. The last one cited by the NTSB in its probable cause report directed the student pilot to make a turn and gave him clearance to land on Runway 29R. The R22 descended into the R44 as the R44 was departing Runway 29L on a touch and go.