NTSB Urges Closer Monitoring of Gulf Operators

 - February 5, 2009, 11:19 AM

On Tuesday, the NTSB issued a recommendation urging the FAA to monitor more closely the communication contingency plans of all Gulf operators following natural disasters. The move was prompted by the crash of a Houston Helicopters (HHI) Sikorsky S-76A in the Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 6, 2005. The helicopter crashed 24 miles offshore a week after Hurricane Katrina knocked out most cell towers in the area and HHI’s communications network. The crew and 10 passengers languished in their personal flotation devices (PFDs) for nearly eight hours before being rescued. After Katrina damaged the communications infrastructure, pilots were tasked with alternative means of complying with FAA-mandated flight following over the Gulf by reporting their positions via satphone to the company, via radio to other aircraft or by filing a flight plan with FSS, but apparently this crew did not adhere to any of these options, thus delaying their rescue. The NTSB also urged expedited deployment of ADS-B in the Gulf. The FAA expects ADS-B to be operational in the region by the end of next year.