Bell 222, Aurora, Ill., Oct. 15, 2008–The Air Angels medical transport helicopter hit a 734-foot-tall radio station tower, killing all four people on board, including the commercial pilot, a flight paramedic, a flight nurse and the patient. The accident occurred at 11:58 p.m. in clear weather. The strobe lights on the tower were working before the helicopter hit, but their electrical wires were severed in the crash.
Bell 206B JetRanger, Longview, Wash., Oct. 10, 2008–The Northwest Helicopters JetRanger lost power while hauling tree limbs. The pilot attempted a power-out forced landing at the bottom of a steep ravine covered with 30-foot conifer trees. The pilot was seriously injured and the helicopter was substantially damaged.
Earlier this week the NTSB announced that it would hold a three-day public hearing beginning February 3 to examine helicopter EMS (HEMS) accidents, and now insurers and the FAA also are taking action. Next week, executives from the top aviation insurers will convene in Dallas to discuss the issue and possible tightening of underwriting requirements.
Maintained properly, upgraded to comply with changing regulations, modified with more capable avionics in the cockpit, repainted outside, refurbished inside, and sometimes even equipped with newer, more powerful, energy-efficient engines, a business aircraft can fly safely and effectively for 30 or 40 years or more.
Start-up manufacturer Hélicoptères Guimbal delivered its first Cabri G2 two-seater to French-based operator Ixair on September 19. The company claims this aircraft brings new technology to the Robinson R22 and Schweizer 300 market, notably in terms of safety.
Business aviation is on the upswing in India, and the country is poised to experience an even bigger boom in the sector as a result of favorable demographics and rapid economic growth. International inbound traffic is also growing in parallel with increasing investment and trade activity. The nation is attracting more international leisure travelers, reinforcing demand for investments in aviation infrastructure.
The first two prototypes of the Bell/Agusta BA609 civil tiltrotor had covered around 60 percent of the certification flight-test program in more than 350 flight hours and 225 hours of ground running by the middle of last month, in the process reaching the type’s maximum operating altitude of 25,000 feet, its certification speed of 310 ktas and G loadings of +3.1 and -1.0.
At a small airfield near Horseheads, N.Y., Sikorsky is slowly expanding the flight envelope of its X2 technology demonstrator. After a first flight at the end of August, the coaxial rotor helicopter is currently midway through the first of four flight-test phases that should enable it to reach a forward speed of 250 knots by the middle of next year.
Helicopters again played a critical role in providing safe evacuations and critical rescues before and after twin hurricanes that pounded the U.S. Gulf Coast between September 1 and September 13. But unlike when Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans and parts of coastal Mississippi and Alabama in 2005, this time authorities were ready, with detailed plans in place for Gustav and Ike.
With the recent wildfires in Northern California reaching historic proportions, the human toll rose as a helicopter ferrying an 11-member firefighting crew from the front lines crashed on August 5, resulting in nine fatalities (see story on facing page).