NTSB Releases Helicopter Crash Reports

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Last week, the NTSB released its probable-cause reports on four of the nine helicopter emergency-medical-services flights involving 35 fatalities that occurred since Dec. 2007, an event that quickly became somewhat overshadowed, as an A320 ditched in the Hudson River that very same day. The safety board said that flying at night in bad weather was a factor in three of the EMS crashes, which killed 12 people. In the fourth crash, in which three people died, the pilot flew too low over trees while searching for a lost hunter, the board said. The FAA has still not acted on NTSB recommendations to require Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems in emergency helicopters, and the board's suggestions to improve training and dispatch procedures also have not been fully implemented. "It is a big issue and the safety board is very concerned about the alarming increase we've seen over the last 14 months," said board member Robert Sumwalt, according to The Associated Press. "The recent accident record is totally unacceptable." The main goal is to get the new technology and procedures into the cockpit, FAA spokesman Les Dorr told the AP. "Rulemaking is one way, but it is not the only way." The NTSB's final reports can be read online.

Click on each accident date to access the newly released NTSB report: Dec. 3, 2007, involving a Eurocopter BK117C1 helicopter, near Whittier, Alaska; Dec. 30, 2007, involving a Bell 206L-3, near Cherokee, Ala.; Feb. 5, 2008, involving a Eurocopter AS350B2 EMS helicopter, near South Padre Island, Texas; and June 8, 2008, involving a Bell 407 EMS helicopter, south of Huntsville, Texas. The NTSB will hold hearings next month in Washington, D.C., to address the issue of safety in helicopter EMS operations.