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Board Meeting: Aircraft Accident Report: Loss of Control at Takeoff, Air Methods Corporation, Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e, N390LG, Frisco, Colorado, July 3, 2015 - Opening Statement
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center, Washington, DC

Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Bella Dinh-Zarr, and it is my privilege to serve as Acting Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Christopher Hart, and Member Earl Weener.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the loss of control at takeoff of a helicopter operated by Air Methods Corporation in Frisco, Colorado, on July 3, 2015. The helicopter, an AS350 B3e, was manufactured by Airbus Helicopters.

The helicopter had three occupants, the pilot and two flight nurses. The flight began at Summit Medical Center helipad, but ended only 32 seconds later, as the helicopter descended and crashed into a recreational vehicle in the facility’s parking lot. A post-crash fire then engulfed the helicopter.

The pilot died of injuries that he sustained in the accident. The two flight nurses survived the accident with serious injuries.

On behalf of my fellow Board Members and the entire NTSB staff, I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the pilot. We hope that this investigation will help prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

We also know that the flight nurses who survived the crash will suffer lifelong complications from their injuries.  We hope that both are on their way to the fullest possible recovery.

As you will hear in staff presentations this morning, this accident involved multiple issues that together led to the results we have before us today.

It is likely the helicopter’s system that provides boost to the pedals was misconfigured prior to takeoff. The design of the accident helicopter did not provide an alert to the pilot of this misconfiguration.

Furthermore, a hover check, which would have allowed for the opportunity to identify the lack of boost to the pedal controls, was not performed; resulting in a missed opportunity to return safely to the helipad.

The helicopter destroyed in this accident was manufactured in 2013 using crashworthiness standards that were in effect in 1977 when its original design received FAA type certificate design approval. As a result, the accident helicopter was not equipped with, or required to be equipped with crash resistant fuel systems. The rapid onset of the fuel-fed postcrash fire led to this accident’s most tragic outcomes.

Purchasers and leasers of these helicopters might not be aware of the applicability of the crashworthiness standards and may hold a belief that the newly manufactured helicopter they have purchased or leased meet the latest standards.

Now Acting Managing Director Dennis Jones will introduce the staff. Mr. Jones.