Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

A loose screw equals 3 dead

Very easily preventable.

The crash could have been much worse, since this is in a residential neighbor hood of a city with a population of over half a million people.

Image credit.

Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told The Associated Press that the agency wants to lodge a $50,625 fine against Air Methods, which is the parent company of LifeNet Arizona and the helicopter’s operator.[1]

If this was such an easily preventable crash, why is it only $16,875 per person killed? That is assuming that the fine is applied in full.

On July 28, 2010, at 1342 mountain standard time, an American Eurocopter AS 350 B3, N509AM, descended rapidly and collided with terrain in an urban area of Tucson, Arizona. The helicopter was operated by Air Methods Corporation, as LifeNet 12, on a repositioning flight, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The commercial pilot and two medical flight crew members were fatally injured. The helicopter was substantially damaged, and consumed by a post impact fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed,[2]

Flight nurse Parker Summons, 41, and paramedic Brenda French, 28, pilot Alexander Kelley, 61.

In 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) principal maintenance inspector (PMI) for the repair station removed the repair station’s authorization to perform work at locations other than its primary fixed location.[2]

The duty pilot performed a 7.5-minute abbreviated post maintenance check flight the evening before the accident. A full maintenance check flight conducted in accordance with the manufacturer’s flight manual should, under normal conditions, take 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Had a full check flight been performed, it is likely that the union would have detached from the boss during the check flight. Because the helicopter would not have been operating near its maximum gross weight and the check flight would have been conducted over an open area, the pilot would have had greater opportunities for a successful autorotative landing.[2]

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

  • The repair station technician did not properly install the fuel inlet union during reassembly of the engine;
  • the operator’s maintenance personnel did not adequately inspect the technician’s work; and
  • the pilot who performed the post maintenance check flight did not follow the helicopter manufacturer’s procedures.

Also causal were

  • the lack of requirements by the Federal Aviation Administration for an independent inspection of the work performed by the technician.
  • the lack of requirements by the operator for an independent inspection of the work performed by the technician.
  • the lack of requirements by the repair station for an independent inspection of the work performed by the technician.

A contributing factor was the inadequate oversight of the repair station by the Federal Aviation Administration, which resulted in the repair station performing recurring maintenance at the operator’s facilities without authorization.[2]

Even the FAA is at fault.

A loose screw = 3 dead.

Image credit.

I wrote about this several days after the crash, in part because of the absurd comments being made by people who were offended by Is that helicopter really necessary? by Kelly Grayson of A Day in the Life of an Ambulance Driver.

Fly Everyone, Let the NTSB Accident Investigators Sort ‘Em Out

The NTSB has finished sorting on this crash.

Read the synopsis of the NTSB findings. Just one page, but a lot of information. Or read the much longer full narrative.[2]

The NTSB does very thorough work, which not leave much for me to add.


[1] Sanctions sought in fatal air medical crash in Ariz. – Crash killed the aircraft’s three-member crew
May 09, 2012

[2] NTSB Identification: WPR10FA371
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 28, 2010 in Tucson, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/03/2012
Aircraft: AMERICAN EUROCOPTER LLC AS 350 B3, registration: N509AM
Injuries: 3 Fatal.
Synopsis                 Full Narrative