Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters lost one of its Boeing-Vertol 234 tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopters–the civil version of the Chinook–in Peru last month. The helicopter (N241CH) crashed on January 7, shortly after takeoff from FAP Captain David Abenzur Rengifo International Airport, Pucallpa, Peru, en route to Tarapoto, Peru. All seven people aboard the aircraft, including five Americans, were killed. The helicopter was contracted to Talisman Energy of Canada and was headed for a drilling site 180 miles away carrying a sling load of drilling equipment. Columbia has operated in Peru for more than 20 years.
Following the crash, Columbia conducted a brief safety standdown and maintenance inspection of its six remaining 234s. This is Columbia’s first crash since 1996, when it lost a Boeing-Vertol 107 II near Aurora, Ore.
The crew on the accident helicopter included command pilot Dann Immel, copilot Igor Castillo, maintenance crew chief Edwin Cordova, aircraft mechanics Luis Ramos and Jaime Pickett, and load managers Darrel Birkes and Leon Bradford. Recovery efforts on scene suggested that at least some of the crewmembers might have jumped from the helicopter before it crashed.
The NTSB, the FAA and Columbia are assisting Peru’s Comision de Investigacion de Accidentes de Aviacion (CIAA) Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones in the investigation.
Columbia was founded in 1957 and operates a fleet of six 234s and twelve 107s in a variety of roles for its civilian and military clients, including cargo, energy exploration, fire fighting and logging. The company also provides maintenance services for a variety of civil and military heavy helicopter components.