NTSB releases report on news helicopter crash

Credit: KING

Two people were killed when a KOMO News helicopter crashed near Seattle Center, March 18, 2014.

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by GLENN FARLEY / ALISON MORROW / KING 5 News

kgw.com

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 24 at 8:29 AM

The National Transportation Safety Board released its first official report on the crash of KOMO TV's helicopter Tuesday that killed two people and seriously burned a man in a car.

The report, posted online around 9:15PM, gives a first glimpse into what nearby security cameras captured.

It states:

"The videos depicted the helicopter stationary on the helipad for about 15 minutes prior to takeoff. Further review revealed during the takeoff sequence, the helicopter began rotating counterclockwise and ascending slightly in a near level attitude. The helicopter continued rotating counterclockwise for about 360 degrees of rotation before it pitched forward in a nose low attitude. The helicopter continued the counterclockwise rotation in a nose low attitude until it disappeared from the camera's field of view."

The preliminary report does not include a cause, gives no analysis, and doesn't give much new information that wasn't already reported by witness statements.

The only change is in the time during which the NTSB calculates the helicopter was stationary on the helipad after landing, prior to taking off again. Initially, they reported it landed for 30 minutes prior to taking off. The report reduces that to 15 minutes.

It will likely take a year or more for the NTSB to release a cause for the helicopter's crash.

According to FAA documents, the news helicopter was owned by an Illinois company called Helicopters Incorporated. According to the NTSB there have been five incidents involving aircraft either owned or operated by Helicopters Incorporated aircraft since 1994.

The last Helicopters Incorporated crash was in October 2008. The KTRK chopper, on its way to a breaking news story, fell from the sky and into the woods in south Texas near Houston. The official cause of the crash was a loss of control for undetermined reasons.

In 2007 a KDFW helicopter owned by Helicopters Incorporated crashed in Dallas. There was one serious injury. According to federal investigators the cause of the crash was the failure of a compressor blade.

The helicopter involved in the KOMO crash was also used for a number of years at two Boston stations.

The FAA registry doesn’t list any previous incidents. The FAA registry also says Helicopters Incorporated owns more than 70 aircraft in the country, handling primarily the business of newsgathering.

Aviation expert Bill Lawrence said the company’s safety records will hold the key.

“I’d probably be looking at the maintenance records of the company,” he said.

As for the helicopter, the Eurocopter was built in 2003 and it’s known as a very good performer.

“It’s used extensively by public service organizations, the border patrol, police organizations and firefighters use them,” Lawrence said.

The NTSB is pulling the maintenance records for the aircraft and will comb through them looking for answers in this crash.

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