HAI Convention News

Sunrise disputes NTSB findings for 2006 crash

 - February 23, 2009, 3:46 PM

The president of helicopter supply company Sunrise Helicopter has filed a petition to revise a 2008 NTSB report that held the company partially responsible for the January 2006 crash of a Eurocopter AS 350D.

The Safety Board concluded that the helicopter lost engine power during a Hawaiian sightseeing flight and crashed due to “significant” engine-bearing damage and heat distress suffered during an oil-starvation event seven years earlier. The NTSB also blamed Kahului, Hawaii-based Alika Aviation (operating as Alex Air) and the engine leasing agent, Spring, Texas-based Sunrise Helicopter, for failing to “ensure the engine’s airworthiness.”

However, the petition claims the Safety Board’s conclusions were “erroneous” and based on “incorrect factual findings.” The petition disputes the “oil-starvation event” for example, and claims the maintenance records “do not agree with this finding.”
The maintenance logs show that the oil starvation event occurred on another engine, and the turbine from that engine was then removed, underwent a complete bearing replacement and was later placed in the engine involved in the 2006 crash. 

Sunrise president John Peacocke attributes the “erroneous” conclusion of the NTSB on a misinterpretation of the logbooks by the Rolls-Royce investigator who contributed to the investigation. “I can’t believe they didn’t do due diligence in reading the logbooks,” Peacocke said. “They misinterpreted them.”

Sunrise also disputes the accusation that the company failed “to ensure the engine’s airworthiness.” According to Peacocke, the NTSB report does not address the fact that the engine was inspected and found to be airworthy by three different companies, all certified by the FAA per 14 CFR Parts 65 and/or 145; nor does it mention that Lafayette, La.-based Petroleum Helicopters (PHI) owned the engine before Sunrise Helicopters.

An NTSB spokesman told HAI Convention News that the Safety Board never investigated the ownership of the engine at the time of the alleged oil starvation event and only noted that evidence of the event existed and that it contributed to the accident seven years later. “We don’t really see that [the ownership] is relevant.”

Lastly, investigators said they found “numerous discrepancies” in the engine logbooks and could not positively identify the engine’s serial number because the data plate had been “defaced.” Sunrise also disputes these claims, mainly because the information was “furnished to the NTSB from a non-NTSB member of the party to the investigation.” In addition, Peacocke said that although an engine modification had made the data plate “difficult to read,” he said he believes the word “defaced” was “mean-spirited.”

In total, the petition requests 15 changes to the final report. An NTSB spokeswoman said the Safety Board “would not be able to offer any remarks about any effort to overturn our findings. We do always welcome any additional information about a case and, on occasion, the reports are changed to reflect new information that makes a difference in the probable cause,” she said, adding that the Safety Board receives petitions to revise reports “on occasion.”