Monday, March 12, 2007
Pontoons Figured in Tourist Helicopter Crash
It was the sixth fatal Kauai helicopter tour crash in four years and also the second fatal helicopter accident on the island of Kauai in four days. In the March 8th Heli-USA accident, the float pontoons were found (amongst the wreckage) to have deployed. This is considered to be unusual as:
b. Standard operating procedure is to do a run-on airfield landing on the metal skids at around 20 knots (as the helicopter loses its ability to hover and retain directional control due to control force feedback without hydraulic boost)
c. A run-on landing on inflated pontoons on the ground would lead to a disastrous outcome (per what happened)
Heli-USA's Kauai helicopters had been fitted with flotation devices, although not required by the FAA. The NTSB report on a prior crash at sea had requested that new FAA rules require deployable flotation devices. The Air Safety Week coverage of those new rules can be found in the 19 February 2007 issue ("New Heat in Hawaii"). A link to Aviationtoday's coverage to the Princeville crash is here.
The original Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Air Tour Operations announced by the FAA on 22 October 2003 can be read at this link.