Final Report: Poor Communication Cited In Flagstaff EMS Midair

 - June 5, 2009, 5:30 AM

Two Bell 407s, Flagstaff, Ariz., June 29, 2008–The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was the failure of both pilots to see and avoid the other on approach to the helipad at Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC). The daylight
VMC midair involved helicopters operated by Classic Helicopters and Air Methods.
All seven aboard both helicopters died. Contributing factors cited by the NTSB were the failure of the Classic pilot to contact the FMC communication center directly while inbound, as required, and the failure of the Air Methods pilot to follow noise-abatement guidelines, which would have put him on approach to the helipad from a more easterly direction–and likely in a position to be more easily seen by the Classic pilot approaching from the northeast.

The NTSB noted that both pilots had contacted their respective company communications centers inbound, but only the Air Methods pilot had contacted FMC directly. FMC advised the Air Methods pilot that another helicopter was inbound. FMC also advised Classic’s communications center that the Air Methods helicopter was inbound. However, Classic’s communications center did not relay this information to its pilot, nor, notes the NTSB, was it required to do so. The NTSB noted that had the Classic pilot contacted the FMC directly as required, “the FMC transportation coordinator likely would have told him that another helicopter was expected at the helipad,” heightening his situational awareness. The NTSB also noted that neither helicopter was equipped with TCAS, which would have likely “alerted the pilots to the traffic conflict so they could take evasive action before the collision.”

“This accident highlights the importance of adhering to the regulations and guidelines that are in place,” said NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker. “Had these pilots been more attentive and aware of their surroundings, and if communications had been enhanced, this accident could have been prevented.”