The New York Times is reporting that warnings from pilots about potential safety issues went unheeded by the operators of a helicopter service that suffered a fatal crash about a month ago.
Pilots had warned management more than once about safety concerns involving equipment, the Times said on Sunday. Last month, five passengers drowned when their copter rolled over into water and they could get free of their harnesses.
On March 11, the American Eurocopter Corp (Airbus Helicopters) AS350B2, N350LH, was substantially damaged when it hit the East River and subsequently rolled over after the pilot reported a loss of engine power. The pilot escaped from the helicopter and sustained minor injuries. The scheduled 30-minute, doors-off aerial photography flight was operated by Liberty Helicopters, Inc., on behalf of FlyNYON under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91.
Vos Iz Neias quotes the Times as reporting that there had been an email from a pilot to company management that warned about such issues. The news service notes that Patrick Day, the CEO of FlyNYON, told the paper of record that if the “pilots had issues that they deemed detrimental to the safety of the operation, they should have ceased operations and addressed the issue with Liberty management.” Liberty Helicopters reportedly owns the copters used in FlyNYON’s flights.
On March 25, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its preliminary report of its investigation. According to NTSB, “The preliminary report contains no analysis and does not discuss probable cause. The information in the report is preliminary and subject to change as the NTSB’s investigation progresses.”
The preliminary report summarizes the preflight activities, passenger briefing and the sequence of events leading up to the accident as described by the pilot during a post-accident interview. The NTSB’s examination of the helicopter is detailed in the report including continuity of flight controls, continuity of drive, condition of rotor blades and the position of controls and switches. Descriptions of the engine, emergency float system, seats and restraint systems are also contained in the report.
The report notes: “A tugboat was the first vessel to arrive at the accident site, and the crew began to render assistance. First responders later arrived, and subsequently extricated the five passengers from the helicopter. The helicopter remained submerged in an inverted position in the East River for about 18 hours before it was recovered at slack tide the following day… Examination of the engine revealed that the engine was still mounted in the helicopter and the cowling was intact. There were no signs of oil or fuel leaks, fire, or uncontainment. The exhaust duct was intact and undamaged.” The wreckage was retained by the NTSB for further examination
By Kenneth H.M. Robeson