Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation
Safety Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is my privilege to serve as Acting
Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board Members: Member Robert
Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener. I also want to welcome
Colonel James Cockrell of the Alaska State Troopers, and other Alaska State
Trooper personnel in the audience today.
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine
Act, to consider for the first time the report on the crash of an Alaska
Department of Public Safety Helicopter near Talkeetna, Alaska, on March 30,
Tragically, the crash took the lives of the pilot, an Alaska state trooper
serving as a flight observer, and a snowmobiler they were in the process of
rescuing. On behalf of the entire NTSB staff, I would like to extend our deepest
condolences to those who lost loved ones and colleagues in the crash.
The pilot and the trooper in this crash died in the service of others. They
routinely shouldered risk in the line of duty to enhance the safety of their
But we will ask today whether they accepted unnecessary risk. As we
will hear today, safety in helicopter operations is a shared responsibility that
should be managed systematically and objectively. Some of the risks of the
Talkeetna mission were inappropriately left solely to the pilot to assess by
Today we will explore the accident pilot's actions and touch on his flight
record and workplace issues. We will also explore how risk was managed within
the Alaska Department of Public Safety in regards to helicopter operations.
In commercial flight, oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration helps
ensure that operators appropriately manage risk. But public aircraft operators –
such as state agencies – can, and usually do, supervise their own flight
operations without FAA oversight.
As a result, unfortunately, time and again this Board has investigated
public-operator helicopter accidents in which training, pilot oversight,
dispatch procedures, flight-following procedures, and safety management systems
In this accident, the end result was that a pilot who was not
instrument-current, found himself in instrument meteorological conditions, in a
helicopter that was neither equipped nor certified for instrument flight rules.
Minutes after picking up the stranded snowmobiler, he became spatially
disoriented, lost control of the helicopter and crashed.
Since this accident, to its credit, the Alaska Department of Public Safety
has moved to enhance safety. But this Board had seen similar issues in other
public helicopter crashes.
The agencies that operated helicopters in previous accidents also made
improvements after their accidents.
But tragically, those public agencies did not learn the lessons from any
other agency's accidents.
Safety in helicopter operations is a shared responsibility. To improve the
safety of Helicopter EMS and SAR flights, risks must be well-managed
system-widein public agencies.
We hope that the lessons of this accident are heeded not only by Alaska state
agencies, but bypublic agencies that operate helicopters across the country.
Now Managing Director Mayer will introduce the staff.
Managing Director Mayer.