Jurors Fault GE in Iron 44 Crash

 - May 4, 2012, 3:10 AM

An Oregon jury has awarded William Coultas, his wife and the widow of pilot Roark Schwanenberg $69.7 million in a damages suit brought in the 2008 “Iron 44” crash of a Carson Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N. The verdict puts General Electric alone on the hook; other parties settled out of court before the trial. The helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from a helispot while conducting firefighting operations in Northern California. Schwanenberg and eight others aboard the helicopter died. Coultas, the copilot, survived with permanently disabling injuries. GE made the CT58-140 engines for the helicopter and the plaintiffs charged that the company knew there was a long-standing design issue with the fuel control units that led to a power loss on takeoff. The NTSB cited a long list of crash factors, including improper aircraft weighing that led to incorrect performance charts in the helicopter flight manual.