NTSB Takes Stronger Stance on Helicopter Windshields
In its final report on last year’s fatal crash of a Sikorsky S-76++ in Louisiana, the NTSB called on the FAA to develop stricter helicopter windshield bird strike resistance standards. The twin-engine helicopter was seven minutes into a charter flight to an offshore oil platform on Jan. 4, 2009, when the CVR recorded a loud bang, followed by the sound of rushing wind and reduced power on both engines. The rotorcraft crashed seconds later, killing both pilots and six of the seven passengers. Investigators believe that a red-tailed hawk penetrated the helicopter’s nose section, just above the windshield near the engine control quadrant, jarred the fire extinguisher T-handles into the engine control levers and pushed them toward the flight-idle position, reducing fuel to both engines. According to the NTSB, the helicopter was originally equipped with laminated glass windshields that were eventually replaced by the operator with lighter-weight cast acrylic aftermarket versions, which lacked any bird strike resistance standards. The Safety Board also called for additional protections for the fire extinguisher T-handles and engine control quadrants for the S-76++ and similarly arranged helicopters; the installation of audible and visual low-rotor-speed alarm systems; and training for helicopter pilots in how to deal with loss of power from both engines.