Seven people died in 2008 midair collision near Flagstaff
FLAGSTAFF – A federal probe into the midair collision of two medical helicopters near a northern Arizona hospital that killed seven people last year places the blame on both pilots.
The pilots failed to see and avoid each other, a primary pilot responsibility, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report released on Friday.
Contributing to that error were one pilot’s failure to contact the hospital’s communications center as required and the other pilot’s decision to approach from the south instead of along the normal flight path from the east.
“Ultimately when any pilot is operating in an environment like that where the airspace is uncontrolled, the mantra is ‘see and avoid,’ ” said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The crash was among a series of nine medical chopper crashes since December 2007 that killed 35 people and led to increased scrutiny of the industry by federal regulators. The NTSB has pushed for better pilot training, night vision goggles and warning systems, but those recommendations have not been implemented.
The two helicopters were approaching Flagstaff Medical Center on the afternoon of June 29, each carrying a patient. They hit about a half-mile from the hospital and crashed into a forested area. All seven aboard the two aircraft died.
The report said the pilots were probably focused on landing in the seconds before they collided and never knew the other was in the area.
The medical center doesn’t have flight controllers, and it’s up to the pilots to watch each other as they approach.
An examination of the wreckage showed no evidence of structural, engine or system failures.