Sunrise differs with NTSB on crash probe

 - February 25, 2008, 4:17 PM

The president of the helicopter supply company that was held partially responsible for the crash of a Eurocopter AS 350D two years ago has disputed the NTSB probable cause report and claimed the Board left out pertinent information. (See story on page 40 of the February 24 issue of HAI Convention News.)

The Safety Board concluded that bearing damage incurred during an oil-starvation event seven years before the crash and the failure of the operator and engine leasing agent to ensure the engine’s airworthiness caused the engine to fail in flight.
However, John Peacocke, president of Sunrise Helicopters, the leasing agent, told HAI Convention News that his company did not own the engine at the time of the oil-starvation event. He said the event occurred under the ownership of Lafayette, La.-based Petroleum Helicopters (PHI), the original owner of the engine.

Peacocke added that PHI–not Sunrise Helicopters–was responsible for some of the “numerous discrepancies” discovered in the engine logbook, including a 2003 entry in which the engine had been labeled “unserviceable” that was voided with no explanation. Peacocke claims PHI labeled the engine unserviceable for liability reasons but changed its designation before Sunrise purchased the engine. “There was nothing wrong with the engine, so PHI struck out the unserviceable remark in the logbook entries,” Peacocke said.

The NTSB report did not identify PHI as having owned the engine during the oil-starvation event or during the time in which the inconsistencies were logged, one of the many bits of information Peacocke believes should have been included in the report. Robert Bouillion, PHI director of safety, environmental and auditing, told HAI Convention News that he could not confirm whether PHI owned the engine at the time of the original oil-starvation event. “There’s no indication that we ever owned that engine,” he said. “It’s hearsay.”

A spokesman for the NTSB said the Safety Board never investigated the ownership of the engine at the time of the oil-starvation event. “We didn’t get into the question of who owned it at the time,” he said. Investigators only noted that evidence of the event existed and that it contributed to the accident seven years later. “We don’t really see that [the ownership] is relevant.”

Peacocke noted that Sunrise Helicopters had leased the engine to the operator, Kahului, Hawaii-based Alex Air, only after it had been tested and released with an FAA Form 8130 by Aero Aviation, an FAA-certified maintenance shop. The Safety Board did not report the fact that Sunrise had the engine tested before releasing it to Alex Air. “We had the engine tested at Aero Aviation, and the engine ran flawlessly and was released into service,” Peacocke said. “Alex Air was in such a rush for the engine, it never even made it back to Sunrise. Alex Air got the engine directly from Aero Aviation.”