Tuesday, April 15, 2014

EMS Helicopter Crashes in New Mexico UPDATE 4/17/14

(4/17/14) As often happens with original information concerning an event like this, the speculation that the aircraft's engine may have been at idle during takeoff appears to be unfounded. One noteworthy comment from the pilot's statement to the NTSB  is... "The pilot added that the pedals were jammed or locked, in the neutral position."

Pedals can become jammed for various reasons. One way to make the pedals hard to move (but not impossible) is to forget to deactivate the hydraulic accumulator test switch. If this push-button switch is inadvertently left in the depressed position (after checking that we can move the cyclic using the stored pressure in the accumulators - as would be required in the event of loss of  the aircraft's single hydraulic system), the pedals are hard to move as the tail rotor load compensator is deactivated during this test.

Until the NTSB issues their final report, all forms of speculation are just that.

To see the initial NTSB report, click here...

This is the second Astar crash in a short period of time that involved a counterclockwise rotation just after liftoff... the other crash was a news helicopter in Seattle, Washington. The report is available by clicking here.

Click here for Story

Click here for video of removal from roof top pad.

Comments on a helicopter forum indicate that the aircraft's engine and rotor may have been at idle rpm during the takeoff attempt (unconfirmed). If so, this won't be the first or last time. We get in a hurry doing multiple takeoffs and landings, and skip a checklist item, and there you have it. One thing that works - in addition to using a checklist and checking the position of controls - is a slow takeoff to a hover and a deliberate hover check before applying power to depart. That gives any problems a chance to manifest before leaving the safety of the pad. I imagine this pilot had an excellent safety record right up to the minute this happened - and this could be any of us...

I also advocate using call and response confirmation checks - using crewmembers for the callouts. I know this is taboo for many HEMS pilots (and crews) but we have done it in Charleston and Savannah for years upon years, and it catches errors. I have gotten myself in a hurry before and started to depart - and had a medic ask me if I wanted to do the before takeoff checklist....

As "Lucky" wrote...

This crew was fortunate to walk away.  There isn't one person who posts on this forum who hasn't made a mistake.  Little ones are easy to fix.  Big ones like these, not so much.  This is a perfect example of why we ALL need to remain ever vigilant while performing our duties.  We all have our checklists.  Make sure you use them!  Everytime!  Be safe out there friends!

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