Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Concerning a Crash

The only thing I can add about Patrick, Claxton, and Diana's crash in Georgetown is that I knew two of them, and liked them. Patrick was a retired marine, had moved to the Myrtle Beach area and bought a home, had recently had a baby, and was a "motivated troop" when it came to aggressively pursuing flight opportunities. On independant bases, all involved know that flight volume equals job security, and the conventional wisdom is that it takes 30 flights a month to stay in business. Patrick set about ensuring that Conway performed enough transports to keep the base open. He was a capable pilot, had a great sense of humor, and was very popular.

I briefed him on base manager duties when he assumed that position. As we in Charleston shared radio nets with the Conway team, we knew what they were doing, when, where, and in what weather conditions. Some of the flights they pursued caused us to "raise our eybrows" at each other in Charleston, and on one occasion one of our pilots even tried to raise a "safety" flag. But at the end of the day we tended to our business and Conway tended to theirs. I regret this now. As a guy with 10 years of experience in this business, I should have seen where things were headed and raised my voice to bring attention to the situation. The night that Patrick and his crew crashed, Charleston pilot Tim Lilley was in Greenville, stuck for weather, and monitored them leaving Charleston toward Conway. Tim called Pat on the 800 radio, advised him that he had just checked weather and seen a storm moving into their path. Tim suggested they stay at the Charleston crew quarters, since they were going to be empty all night. Pat refused and advised that they were heading home. They never made it.

The investigation on that crash is not yet complete, so no definitive answers can be given, but the initial report does state that the aircraft flew toward an area of convective activity (or words to that effect). Witnesses on the ground saw the aircraft fly overhead at low altitude just prior to the crash. The training point to emphasize here is that we never have to press on. If someone on the ground could see the aircraft, persons on the aircraft could be assumed to be able to see the ground. An off airport landing is better than pressing on into a bad situation. We as AMRM instructors want to drive this home, and we want to drive this point into medical crews as well as pilots. While the pilot should be the first to realize that a bad situation is developing, sometimes we get tunnel vision, or fixation, or suffer some other lapse. Perhaps we succumb to perceived pressure from "above" to "get er done". Regardless, someone on that aircraft needs to speak up and call a halt...

1 comment:

  1. The investigation is now complete. Pilot error coupled with a failure of the companies Operational Control Center to monitor the flights progress toward bad weather. What a shame...


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