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Helicopter crash kills 5

DeniseM

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There are just too many helicopter crashes in Hawaii - you will never see DH and I on a helicopter tour. :bawl:
 

slip

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I want to take one but I don't know. The safety record does scare me. It seems
like you hear about a crash every couple of years in Hawaii alone.
 

tompalm

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During the last few days, the weather in Hawaii has been pretty bad with a lot of rain and wind, however today was the worse weather all week. It was probably a good day by mainland standards, but for flying in a helicopter, I would not have gone.

I know I have posted this several times before, but don't buy tickets on a helicopter tour until you know the weather is going to be good. For me, that would be the same day, or day before. The main reason is that you will not be able to see as much when there are a lot of clouds. The second reason is that the wind will make the ride very bumpy and most people get sick. The last reason is that it could be more dangerous.

As soon as you hear about a helicopter crash, you can bet that the cause was the pilot got caught in the weather, and could not see the terrain and the wind blew the aircraft into the mountain. This happens in most helicopter accidents in Hawaii. Additionally, it happened a couple years ago on the big island with a single engine Cessna that was giving a tour of the big island and additionally happened around 2003 to a Hawaii Air Ambulance twin engine Cessna 414 descending into Hilo.

In most cases, the pilots fly the same route three or four times each day and know where they are at, but the strong wind blows the aircraft off course and if the pilot can't see the mountains, the aircraft might hit the mountains. Most of these pilots do this every day and don't have a problem, but every once in a while, someone hits the mountain.

On a nice day, helicopter flying is safe. I read every accident report, news article and accident investigation I can get my hands on. My past experience includes 20 years as a Naval Aviation safety officer and eight years as ALPA safety and training for Aloha Airlines and more than 10,000 flight hours. The point is that I have been reading and watching every detail about these crashes over the years and in most cases, the cause is almost always the same. Below is what the local news posted a few hours ago.




http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/...h-above-kilohana-elementary-school-on-molokai


By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 30-year-old pilot from Kihei, Maui and four passengers are dead after a tour helicopter slammed into a hillside on the east end of Molokai at about 12:15 PM Thursday.

Maui county fire officials say the weather in the area consisted of rain and a lot of wind.

The crash, involving a Blue Hawaiian tour helicopter, happened about a quarter-mile behind Kilohana Elementary. A newlywed couple from Pennsylvania and two people from Ontario, Canada were on the flight.

"On behalf of everyone here at Blue Hawaiian, we're devastated and we're going to do everything we can to cooperate with the authorities," Patti Chevalier, company president, said. "We are heart-broken."

School administrators say they heard a loud boom, which they initially thought was thunder since it had been raining. But they soon saw the chopper, which was engulfed in flames.

"The school health aid, whose office is in the back side of the campus, actually saw the helicopter run into the ridgeline behind the school," Richard Stevens, Kilohana Elementary principal, said.

One of the classrooms on campus served as a command post for emergency personnel.

"The rescue personnel got there very quickly," Stevens said. "I have more manpower at the school than I could have imagined for Molokai, so the kids are well taken care of."

The pilot was identified as Nathan Cline, 30. Two male passengers and two female passengers were also on the flight, which originated in Kahului, Maui.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa received the tragic news while participating in APEC events on Oahu.

"We truly want to express our sorrow to all of those whose families are involved," Arakawa said. "Blue Hawaiian, this is only the second accident they've had in the history of the company, so generally a very, very safe company."

In July 2000, all seven people on board were killed when a Blue Hawaiian helicopter went down near Iao Needle on Maui.

Arakawa says he knew the pilot on a personal level.

"He's taken us around when we had the tsunami problems," the mayor said. "We went around and we actually got to see all of the details, taking us real close. (He was) very experienced. We're just really sad that this has happened."

Workers at the company's Oahu location said they were grieving, but trying their best to reassure customers.

The Maui Visitors Bureau is working with the families of the passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
 

tompalm

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I just watched the video in the link above and most of it is about the weather. The NTSB report will not be out for a long time, but the odds are very, very high that the weather had everything to do with it.
 
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chellej

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I just watched the video in the link above and most of it is about the weather. The NTSB report will not be out for a long time, but the odds are very, very high that the weather had everything to do with it. Of course, the pilot was on a VFR flight plan and was suppose to remain clear of clouds, so the report will state the causal factor as pilot error.

Tom

It would seem to me that the helicopter companies/pilots would have a a good idea when the weather is risky since they do fly it every day. Assuming this is the case....is it just the $$$ that they would choose to fly vs cancel or do they really have no idea that the flight is at a significant;y higher risk ?
 

tompalm

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Tom

It would seem to me that the helicopter companies/pilots would have a a good idea when the weather is risky since they do fly it every day. Assuming this is the case....is it just the $$$ that they would choose to fly vs cancel or do they really have no idea that the flight is at a significant;y higher risk ?

They fly in clouds everyday and get use to it. They do not see it as high risk. The risk comes from pilot complacency and doing it over and over again they feel like they know exactly where they are at. The pilots that are new to Hawaii are probably safer about flying around the mountains and not ready to take the same risk. Last of all, if the company cancels flights, they loose money. No company will cancel unless the FAA tells them too.

Blue Hawaii helicopters has some of the nicest, largest, and most expensive helicopters in Hawaii. I assume they pay their pilots better than the others and have their pick of the best helicopter pilots. If someone is trying to pick the best company to fly with, I would still consider this company. But, don't go flying when it is cloudy, windy, and rainy.
 

Beaglemom3

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There are just too many helicopter crashes in Hawaii - you will never see DH and I on a helicopter tour. :bawl:

I'm with you Boo-Boo, not in Hawaii, NYC, Boston or any place.

I don't care if it's pilot error, unforseen weather conditons, equipment failure or poor maintenance, I will never go on one unless it's to rescue me from a given situation that I hope not to get myself into.

ETA: My Dad was a USN & Air Force career pilolt and made me promise him that I'd never get into an aircraft with only one engine/propellor, etc. Hmmmm.
 
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p182cessna

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They fly in clouds everyday and get use to it. They do not see it as high risk. The risk comes from pilot complacency and doing it over and over again they feel like they know exactly where they are at. The pilots that are new to Hawaii are probably safer about flying around the mountains and not ready to take the same risk. Last of all, if the company cancels flights, they loose money. No company will cancel unless the FAA tells them too.

Blue Hawaii helicopters has some of the nicest, largest, and most expensive helicopters in Hawaii. I assume they pay their pilots better than the others and have their pick of the best helicopter pilots. If someone is trying to pick the best company to fly with, I would still consider this company. But, don't go flying when it is cloudy, windy, and rainy.

They state he was under VFR flight rules. If this is the case they are absolutely not allowed to fly in clouds. VFR stands for "Visual flight rules" and it is a huge FAA ordeal if you indeed go into a cloud. You need to be on an "IFR" flight plan to enter clouds.
 

Timeshare Von

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They mention in the article that this is only the 2nd fatal accident this company has had, the last being in 2000.

No doubt this is tragic for the families affected. Any loss of life is too much.
 

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We had a helicopter tour of Kauai once.

We had a fixed wing tour of Kauai once. :cheer:

I'd take a fixed wing tour again.

I'D NEVER TAKE A HELICOPTER TOUR AGAIN, ANYPLACE (Unless it is to the ER)

Sterling
 

DeniseM

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Here is a scary statistic:

Hawaii Helicopter Crash Rates Among Highest Of all tourist destinations, Hawaii seems to have one of the highest tour helicopter crash rates in the country. From January 2003 to July 2008, the NTSB lists 36 helicopter crashes, many of which involved tour companies. During that time, there were 24 pilots and passengers killed.

http://hawaii-super-ferry.com/faqs.html
 

siesta

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Having been on many private flights, including helicopters, leer jets, single engine cessna's, and other types of "puddle jumpers", mostly due to business, I absolutely agree with tompalm. Preferably you want to charter these the day of, but obviously not all situations permit day of or next day arrangements.

I once accompanied a New York Ranger (NHL) on a helicopter ride from Hartford, Connecticut directly to Madison Square Garden. It was a night game, the weather was very rainy and windy, with extremely poor visibility. But there was no other choice due to time constraints. We reluctantly got on the flight, and it was by far the most nerve racking flight I have ever been on. Even the pilot seemed tense.

For business you may have no choice, but if for pleasure make sure to do your best to avoid unnecessary risks. The risks are very real.
 
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tompalm

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They state he was under VFR flight rules. If this is the case they are absolutely not allowed to fly in clouds. VFR stands for "Visual flight rules" and it is a huge FAA ordeal if you indeed go into a cloud. You need to be on an "IFR" flight plan to enter clouds.

VFR means visual flight rules in which the pilot maintains safety of flight from other aircraft and obstacles and to do this, they must stay clear of clouds. However, most pilots have an Instrument rating that means they are capable of flying in the clouds and landing at an airport when the weather is bad.

Nobody knows if an aircraft enters the clouds for a few minutes, or even five minutes and pilots on VFR flight plans do it all the time. You are right, if an FAA inspector is on the flight, the pilot would not do it. But, if a passenger reported to the FAA, it would be the pilot's word against the passenger's word and not much would happen. In defense of pilots, weather looks VFR, and is reported to be VFR prior to takeoff, but after you get halfway done with your flight, the weather moves in and now you have to fly through a cloud to get back or take a longer way home. The problem is that most pilots know where they are at when they enter a cloud, but don't count on the wind blowing them off course, or into a mountain.
 

tompalm

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Today's newspaper reported that a witness stated the noise coming from the helicopter sounded like it was auto-rotating, or in trouble. The helicopter hit the mountain at a low level close to sea level, so maybe that is true. However, there was a lot of rain and clouds at the impact area. So, if there was a mechanical, the bad weather was a major cause in the pilot not making it to a safe landing area.

One thing to note is that witness statements are often misleading. The average person would not know what an auto-rotation sounds like. I have been around aviation all my life and never heard an auto-rotation. Helicopters make an unusual wop, wop, wop noise when they fly by. Maybe that is all they heard. In any event, weather played a big part. In most cases, helicopter pilots fly low to get below the clouds and to see where they are going.
 
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daventrina

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I know I have posted this several times before, but don't buy tickets on a helicopter tour until you know the weather is going to be good. For me, that would be the same day, or day before....

We have said the same many times also.
The best weather is usually in the AM. We never schedule a flight in the PM.
(Except, twice, on Maui, we had to get "checked out in the PM after we arrived so we could fly the next AM so we could start diving... But it was just us and the instructor.
Message from the tower "Wind - 35 gusting to 40... Caution wake turbulence 767 short final 02":eek: )

Don't forget that wind can be as bad as rain or clouds.
Hovering near ridges with high winds = BAD!

You can check the weather forecast here:
http://www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl/pages/aviation.php
or you can call 1-800-wx-brief

We have only been on one helo trip in Hawaii. We have started on several...

Many we would not booked because the operator would not let US cancel because of weather.:annoyed:
Two we didn't book because they wouldn't assure us a seat up front.
Two were canceled by the operator because of weather.
One was canceled by us because of weather.

IF and only IF you fly in good weather, the trip is safer (generally, given a well maintained aircraft) than the trip to the airport in a car.

IF the weather isn't perfect ... DON'T GO!
IF the operator won't let you cancel because of weather ... DON'T BOOK IT !
IF the pilot won't return to the airport or put it on the ground because you want out ... DON'T GET IN IT !

Because if the wing is going faster than the airfraft it can be dangerous,
There are other options ... Fixed wing...

Three times we opted to rent a plane and take our own trip...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dntanderson/sets/72157600741211948/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dntanderson/sets/72157606584106801/

Twice we rented from Maui Aviators that also provide fixed wing sightseeing trips:
http://mauiaviators.com/flight_guide.htm

Our next helo ride will be in Tracy in one that is parked next to our airplane... :eek:
 

daventrina

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...No company will cancel unless the FAA tells them too.
...
The FAA will only say "VFR not recommended. The FAA won't cancel these flights (generally, unless they close the airport). They can require a IFR or Special VFR (in a busy class Charlie airspace - not likely) arrival or departure.
The final responsibility for the safety of the flight rest with the pilot....
"FAR Part 91.
Sec. 91.3 — Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.
(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft."
 
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Bunk

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This may be a dumb question, but what is the pilot supposed to do if you are on a VFR flight plan, already in the air and the clouds come in suddenly?
 

tompalm

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This may be a dumb question, but what is the pilot supposed to do if you are on a VFR flight plan, already in the air and the clouds come in suddenly?

You are supposed to turn to avoid clouds. The only time you can't see a cloud layer is at night or during low visibility when the clouds blend in with the sky. Both of those times, the pilot should be on an IFR flight plan.

Another possibility of this crash is wind shear. There is a lot of that around the mountains and possibly, the pilot was clear of clouds and at an altitude that was the allowable minimum.

I just saw this news article below on Reuters about a Helicopter crash in Mexico. They are saying weather is the probable cause.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE7AA4X920111111
 
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Kauai Kid

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According to news reports one couple was on their Honeymoon.

A terrible tragedy for all five.

Prayers for the victims, families, and all those affected.

Something has to be done to make the flights safer.

Wish I knew what that something was.

Sterling
 

barefootnAR

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Blue Hawaiian does have a good record. 160,000 flights and only two crashes.
Not to downplay the tragic deaths, just stating their record.
 

daventrina

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This may be a dumb question, but what is the pilot supposed to do if you are on a VFR flight plan
There is no dumb question... These tour flights are operated without a flight plan and generally without radar services except when leaving or entering class B or C airspace. VFR flights are required to remain clear of clouds. IF you can't... you call air traffic control and file IFR ... or immediately declare an emergence and ask for help (you may get in trouble and will have some explaining to do but have a much better chance of getting on the ground safely).
... It was rainy, but it's Kaui.
Liz
That's part of the problem...
Folks need to refuse to fly in bad weather. Period.
The cost of flights will go up... The the accident rate will go down.
Something has to be done to make the flights safer.
Wish I knew what that something was.
Sterling
The something is this....
90% of the fatal accidents are caused by three factors.
1) Fuel exhaustion /miss management AKA Running out of gas.

2) CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) AKA skud running (trying to seek between the ground and the clouds)

3) Low level maneuvering. Unnecessary flight close to the ground (say less than 1000-2000 feet).

DON'T do these three things and it is safer than driving.:D
Why do some pilots insist on still doing dumb things? :wall:

The tour flights exercise cause 2 & 3 on a regular basis.
They fly A LOT in bad/marginal weather close to the ground.
Do that long enough and the stats catch up with you.

To decrease the accident rate ... You have to stop doing 2 and 3.
There will be less flights so the operating cost will go up.

Looking at the chart:
http://runwayfinder.com/?loc=PAK
It looks like most of these flights only require operation clear of clouds to be legal (not the same as safe).
I believe that the flights out of Port Allen only require 1 mile and clear of clouds to operate.
Our aircraft cruises at about 2.5 miles a minute. With 1 mile we could be in trouble in 20 seconds.:eek: So, while we can legally fly VFR with 1 mile a lot ... we NEVER have and don't expect to.

Sec. 91.155 — Basic VFR weather minimums.

§ 91.155 Basic VFR weather minimums
Part (b) Class G Airspace, Paragraph (1) Helicopter. A helicopter may be operated clear of clouds if operated at a speed that allows the pilot adequate opportunity to see any air traffic or obstruction in time to avoid a collision. All other VFR weather minimums are in effect.

So...
We refuse to book with a tour operator that will not allow us to cancel because WE don't like the weather.
We refuse to board an aircraft where we don't trust/feel comfortable with the pilot.

Our aircraft is operated in such a way that it is safer than driving a car.
We generally have 3-5 hours maintenance for 25 flight hours.

We carry plenty of fuel and the onboard computer knows exactly how much fuel we have, how long we can fly and how far we can go. See cause 1. we should not run out of gas.

Our onboard GPS has terrain and she yells at you when there is something our flight path. We don't operate in bad weather. Our aircraft is equipped for IFR flight and we are trained sufficiently to arrive safely at an airport should the need arise. The auto pilot can take us to the airport... all we have to do is make sure the gal in the GPS doesn't yell at us that we are going to hit something and finish the landing. Trina spent an extra $400 for the additional autopilot control - said it was a safety item. Push the autopilot on button and hold it ... and our aircraft turns on the altitude hold and makes a 180 degree turn out of the clouds. She's so smart! See cause 2.

We maintain sufficient altitude and speed for safe operations. See cause 3.
We (well, Trina ... said she's smart) selected to build an aircraft that cruises 10 -20 knots slower that another model that we were interested ... Because we spend a lot of time in the mountains going to Tahoe and Columbia and IF we need to make an off airport landing it lands at least 10 knots slower significantly increasing the odds of a successful arrival with the ground.

So please do your self and everyone else a favor. Refuse to book with a tour operator that will not allow YOU to cancel because YOU don't like the weather. Don't get in an aircraft when the weather (including viz and winds) is bad/poor.:clap:

That is how you improve the accident rate. But it will cost more. But it will be safer.

Thought for the day:
Our aircraft that we built that cost less than many SUVs or cars is well equipped and able to function well in adverse conditions. Why aren't these multi-million dollar tour aircraft able to cope with adverse conditions?
 
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The Human Side of the Story

Blue Hawaiian does have a good record. 160,000 flights and only two crashes.
Not to downplay the tragic deaths, just stating their record.

Good point... it is the exception and far from the rule, but it is also difficult to ponder statistical insignificance when people have died. They were only attempting to have an experience and make a memory for themselves, as thousands of others have done. My wife and I had our honeymoon helicopter ride some 16 years ago on Kauai, and it was incredible; Will Squyre's was the top dog in those days. Too bad it was also pre digital camera... :rolleyes:

For the most part, a trip to Hawaii is a very different decision for people from the east compared to the lucky folks on the west coast. The easy choice from here is the Carribean, as you can be there in a blink and a bargain. EVERYBODY goes to Mexico... it like McDonald's!

The "meaning" of going to Hawaii is a very special thing, and it often conveys a much bigger event in peoples lives. Here is the story from the local perspective, viewed more thru the human interest lens...


http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_766975.html
 
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