NTSB blames crash on unprepared pilot

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The first of three helicopters crashed on Herbert Glacier last September because the pilot was unprepared to fly in poor weather, according to a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Three TEMSCO helicopters crashed on the glacier Sept. 10, 1999.

The report said conditions were difficult over the glacier, where snow and ''flat'' lighting tricked the pilots into thinking they were flying higher than they were.

''Probably the best avoidance in an accident like this is not being in a position like this in the first place,'' said NTSB air safety investigator Clint Johnson.

The helicopters' instrument panels did not have a device that tells the pilot just how far the helicopter is above the ground.

Nobody was killed in the accidents.

The conditions were reminiscent of those that brought down another helicopter three months before in a crash in which seven people died.

The NTSB said the September accidents, like the June crash involving a non-TEMSCO helicopter, was influenced by the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to include instrument training or checks as requirements in the helicopter operator's training manuals.

Since the crashes the FAA made some changes, including adding required instrument checks to the standard training manuals for Juneau helicopter companies, said Joette Storm, spokeswoman for the FAA in Anchorage.

None of the helicopters had radar altimeters, the NTSB noted.

At the suggestion of the NTSB, TEMSCO is already installing radar altimeters in all its helicopters that fly over snow-covered terrain. TEMSCO also began testing the ability of all company pilots to fly using only the instruments and added a segment on how to recognize and react to flat light conditions into the annual training, the agency's report said.

''Realistically, they realized there were some changes that needed to be made and they did that after the accident,'' Johnson said.

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