NTSB Completes Midair Investigation


NTSB investigators have completed their fact-finding into the October 2014 midair crash at the Frederick, Maryland, airport, in which three people in a Robinson R44 helicopter died after a Cirrus SR22 “flew through [its] rotor system” in the traffic pattern. The safety board has not yet determined the accident’s probable cause. The factual report states the air-traffic controller talking to the Cirrus didn’t hear the pilot check in at 3 miles out, one minute before the crash, because she was listening to a pilot on the ground-control frequency. As the Cirrus pilot approached the pattern, the controller said, “I have three helicopters below ya in the uh traffic pattern.”

The pilot said he had two of the helicopters in sight, and the controller told him he was “cleared to land.” Seconds later, the two aircraft collided. The Cirrus pilot deployed the airplane’s CAPS parachute system, and was not hurt, and his passenger survived with minor injuries. The factual report notes that both air traffic controllers on duty stated the airport’s traffic pattern altitudes were 900 feet msl for helicopters, 1,300 feet msl for small fixed-wing airplanes, and 1,800 feet msl for large fixed-wing airplanes and twins. However, “the facility was unable to produce any documentation … of the 900-foot msl helicopter TPA they had mentioned.” The NTSB has not announced a date for its probable-cause determination.