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Helicopter down in NYC (Oct 2011)

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Helicopter down in NYC (Oct 2011)

Old 6th Oct 2011, 08:10
  #41 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 444
RF: "That said, passengers don't go through HUET training, do they ?"

My point exactly re "public transport". However I come from the school of "humans only designed for 8mph on land". Anything else is a personal risk and entirely up to that person. So long as the risks are explained to them.

Look at the total amount of pax on NY scenic flights vs. the number of incidents.

Proportionate should be the response by authorities and politicians. After all, we are talking about a country which allows its folk to carry arms.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 08:18
  #42 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Very sad accident.

When flying the London svfr routes one anticipates ditching in the case of a forced landing. But you could autorotate shoreside and take the opportunity to destroy some of the most expensive real estate in the world and perhaps a few bankers on a good day . So does common sense suggest you equip and brief the pax for ditching? No brainer.

Never been to NYC. But I imagine forced landing presents the same challenges but with more water available.

I should say I've no idea if these pax were briefed and equipped for a ditching. Just saying they should have been.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 10:04
  #43 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: England
Posts: 126
LTE/Fenestron Stall vs Yaw Divergence, and insurance

LTE/Fenestron Stall is probably better described as Yaw Divergence - which puts it back squarely on the pedals, and the speed of the feet pushing them.

Minimum insurance requirements in the UK and EU are higher than the US for private heli operators, typically based on MTOW and type of operation. Over here, a Bell 206 would be carrying US$7m+ insurance for the pax and third party damage. I expect a fraction of that for a private Bell operator in NY/NJ.

Given the higher certainty of lawyers and legal action in the US from any aviation accident, it is interesting that the insurance available can be significantly less....
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 14:08
  #44 (permalink)  
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JB, having floats and lifejackets is not about eliminating accidents but reducing the risk of death or injury to persons.
Here Here.

Having had mechanical issues in twins that required immediate landing, namely; one at night in the country, one at night over a city with a river, and the other over Southbank in London in daytime, it is a good idea to wear a life jacket if regardless of the number of engines, a significant part of the flight relies on ditching as the primary emergency landing site.

JB, perhaps if floats were available and had been deployed and even if the aircraft had ended up inverted but floating, it would have been easier to rescue the trapped passenger? Also if it is floating upside down there would be filtered daylight in the cabin which would aid self escape. The alternative of sinking into a state of near darkness makes for an immensely challenging escape to say the least.

Even if you do get out there is still the risk of hyperventilation, however it can be mitigated by a life jacket, especially one with a collar that supports the head and rolls the wearer upright.

I witnessed, at close hand, three people capsize a small row boat in very cold water and one of them hyperventalated which is a shocking sight, surprisingly violent and there is little hope if you can't keep your head out of the water because you continue to suck and pant uncontrollably even when your head is under the water.

In this case his (auto inflation) life jacket saved him by keeping his airway out of the water.

I took a HUET course after witnessing that and dont complain about immersion suits as they greatly reduce cold shock and hyperventilation.

Interestingly the guys who did not hyperventilate were rescued first as they swam to nearby boats which unfortunately blocked their path to the victim who needed the most urgent help.


Last edited by mickjoebill; 8th Oct 2011 at 06:58.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 15:34
  #45 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Pensacola, Florida
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I hesitate to weigh-in on this crash, but as someone who spent a lot of time doing sightseeing tours in grossed-out B-models and "straight" L-models out of E34th Street, I think I know a little about the subject.

First, let us acknowledge that witness statements can be extremely suspect. I've witnessed a couple of helicopter accidents in my life, and was always surprised at how different the recollection was from all the witnesses; even pilots sometimes get it wrong or remember inaccurately.

In a loaded 206B, you absolutely want to do an airspeed-over-altitude takeoff out of 34th Street. There are no obstacles to clear (other than the little bulkhead). You might not have the power (torque) to do otherwise (e.g. climb away). Let us assume that he was at or near MGW with five people and enough fuel for a decent ride around the city. (34th Street is listed as having jet fuel available, so he could have had very little fuel while planning on getting some more after the "tour.") The only thing to do is pull all available power and get try to get 45 knots as quickly as you can so you can start climbing.

Would floats have helped? Sure. Of course. Obviously. The (standard) trigger is millimeters away from my left index finger as I hold the collective. In an engine failure situation one could easily and quickly and without conscious thought blow the floats as the aircraft settled. One would not have to be Chuck Yeager to accomplish this.

But! Witnesses said that the aircraft was either spinning and/or did not enter the water level. They said it looked like the pilot was performing some "daredevil" maneuver. Huh? Okay, that points to a control issue. We are trained and conditioned to keep the aircraft level down near the ground (water).

The pilot in this case was reported to be "experienced" in the 206 with...umm...500 hours make/model. Okay, that's a fair amount and by that time he should know the aircraft and how it flies pretty well. Still, no self-respecting 206 pilot is going to pull some wild aerobatic stunt at such a low altitude as everyone agrees he was when the problem began. Nope, he would simply keep it level and cushion if the engine quits on takeoff.

Uncontrolled yaw (and the pitching that comes with it) is something else. Either tail rotor failure or the dreaded "LTE" that everybody worries about in a 206. But 206's do not get into LTE at sea level. I'm sorry, they just don't. Unless you're trying to hover at a high power setting with a really ripping wind from the right-rear, a 206 at sea level will always have enough tail rotor authority to get the job done.

From the condition of the aircraft as it was pulled out of the water, it sure looks to my uneducated eye that it went in under power: Trans broken from its mounts; one main rotor blade is broken off; and the tailboom is twisted.

But! The pilot has made statements (official and unofficial) that he had an "engine failure" right after takeoff. Here's a link to fairly comprehensive Daily Mail article:

New York helicopter pilot in crash that killed British tourist is 'convicted felon' | Mail Online

And of course the NTSB has just *had* to make their usual statement about how they've found no obvious signs of mechanical failure - as if the ONLY way an engine fails is by exploding. We know from bitter experience that Rolls Royce 250 engines have numerous failure modes, from outright quitting to decels. Governor failure, anyone? PC line failure? Compressor bearing failure? Come on. Even a partial power failure is just as good as a complete engine failure. If the engine won't maintain 100% rpm, you're going down. The NTSB should shut the hell up.

So we have all these conflicting things. And everybody and their mother is asking: WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?! In this age of instant access to information, we want the answer NOW, by God. We deserve it!

Let's talk about floats for a second. The aircraft was not required to have emergency floats, period. It is obvious that in this case he *should* have had them. But every day, all over the world, single- and twin-engine helicopters without floats make approaches over water to heliports. I've done it many times; you probably have too. Doesn't make it right, and there is always an element of risk, even in a twin. In this most recent case the risks caught up with this pilot. I'm sure he is regretting that now.

Life jackets? They are USELESS unless they are worn. Having them "available" in a helicopter is a joke. There is usually not enough warning or time to put them on.)Let us admit that no matter what the specific FAR requirements are, the passengers should have been wearing PFDs. HOWEVER! Life jackets are of no use whatsoever if you cannot get out of the submerged helicopter. And even properly briefed passengers forget everything you tell them about how to unlatch the seatbelt when panic sets in. People freeze.

When I worked in the Gulf of Mexico for PHI, I carried nothing but people who had flown in helicopters many, many times. Still, sometimes we'd land on a platform and the front seat passenger would grapple and grope unsuccessfully for the seatbelt release, unable to locate it quickly. In every case I would turn to them and say, "Good thing we're not on fire, eh?" God only knows how that woman in N63Q reacted when she found herself suddenly trapped upside down in a helicopter in 70 degree water.

Finally, my opinion on what happened at 34th Street? He was heavy. He was perhaps not the most experienced 206 driver on the block. He was making a takeoff without the benefit of a headwind and, by most accounts a wind that was disadvantageous. Let's say the engine did not quit outright.

Remember how I said that 206's don't get into LTE? Well, that doesn't mean they won't spin. Huh? If you are already at 100% torque and a gust of wind causes you get a small uncommanded right yaw before acheiving ETL, pushing *more* left pedal will cause an overtorque. So we press gently on the left pedal at such high power settings. Once the ship starts to rotate, now you're in a bind. Armchair quarterbacks might say, "Just push the left pedal to the floor!!" Sure, easy, right? And that might have worked, but it also might have caused the MR to droop with the overtorque. You're between a rock and a hard place, and you only have a *very* short time to sort it all out. Once things start going wrong, they start going wrong fast! I'm just saying... That's why you need airspeed: To get the streamlining effect that comes with being above ETL. It sounds to me like the 34th Street pilot may not have gotten above ETL when it all began to unfold.

We do not know exactly what happened, other than whatever caused this event happened pretty quickly, the ship ended up in the water and a passenger died. That pilot will have to live with that for the rest of his life. No matter what was the primary cause (mechanical failure or pilot error), it's not something I'd want on my conscience.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 15:54
  #46 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 139
Excellent post FH1100, it's nice to read a balanced opinion from someone who has experience in both NYC tours and older JetRangers.
Out of all of the tours that take place from Downtown Heliports, how many are made by Private Pilots ?
Was this scenario a "one off" or is it common place ?

I know that PPL holders are effectively banned from flying into major Motor racing events and suchlike in the UK whilst commercial operations are taking place. Are they "tolerated" in the US ?

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Old 6th Oct 2011, 15:58
  #47 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2010
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FH1100 - Excellent and well considered post.

I couldn't agree more about the carriage of life jackets. Some corporate helicopters even stow the lifejackets under or behind velcro'd seat cushions. No-one can access them until that passenger stands up. How the hell you're mean't to get to these in an emergency is beyond me. Absurd tokenism.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 16:25
  #48 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2002
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FH1100 well done man, very good and readable post.

@ Sanus: but giving them lifejackets to wear and, God forbid, helmets, just tells them that what they are about to do is dangerous...that's bad for business
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 16:37
  #49 (permalink)  
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Tarman ...dont think you are totally right on that . The only event i know of where ppl,s are not allowed is the Grand Prix and even then they ARE allowed in before it gets too busy . I also think that if , even as a ppl , you are known to the helipad operators well and known to be used to such things they will let you in .
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 18:53
  #50 (permalink)  
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Bob, on the spot as usual. May I add to what you mentioned at the end regarding overtorque and rotor droop: the main rotor ain't the only spinning part that slows down, down back at the other end the tail rotor slows down as well, and that kind of decreases its thrust, right?
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 19:38
  #51 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Pensacola, Florida
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May I add to what you mentioned at the end regarding overtorque and rotor droop: the main rotor ain't the only spinning part that slows down, down back at the other end the tail rotor slows down as well, and that kind of decreases its thrust, right?
You are correct, sir! Something many people fail to take into consideration.

But let's be honest- none of us knows what really happened there. Perhaps he did have a problem which resulted in a partial power-failure. Perhaps the thing was making noises or drooping or whatever, and he figured he could whip it around and get it back to the pad because he was so early in the takeoff run and was still close but it didn't work out. Who knows?

It would be really pompous of me to declare with certainty what really happened. But I can make an educated guess. Having done literally hundreds of takeoffs from that very heliport in all kinds of wind/weather conditions (and often at MGW/MAUW), I know what he was up against.

The safety of the NYC heliports is actually pretty good, all things considered. I notice that in order to come up with an actual list of crashes/accidents, the reporters had to go back to the 1980's. Very few fatalities in those 30 years as well.

As the event was unfolding, I was watching a live feed from one of the ENG helicopters covering the scene, which also had a (certain popular social network site that has the intials "FB") chat window on the side. People were boo-hooing about this "terrible tragedy." Not to be insensitive and certainly not meaning to minimize this event, I posted, "I wonder how many people were killed in horrible car crashes in the U.S. today?" As expected, there was no response. The news media treats every little aircraft incident like it's Tenerife all over again.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 20:45
  #52 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2010
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I don't think i have ever read posts on PPRuNe with which i agree more completely.

A good, sober, rational, reasonable appraisal

You have not future as a journo!

Safe flying
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 21:20
  #53 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Pensacola, Florida
Posts: 704
I don't think i have ever read posts on PPRuNe with which i agree more completely...
Thank you, OvertHawk and all who replied. Kind words, much appreciated.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 23:07
  #54 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: London, UK
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JB, perhaps if floats were available and had been deployed and even if the aircraft had ended up inverted but floating, it would have been easier to rescue the trapped passenger?
I think most pilots would get out and then go back to pull out the passengers so keeping it near the surface makes a lot of sense. The previous (heavy) 206L deployed floats so it's clearly not an impossible task.
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 00:17
  #55 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Toledo, OH
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I agree FH1100 an excellent post. Unfortunately, when dealing with passengers the required passenger briefing is many times ignored. The vest has to be put on to be of much use. In 1997 a BK operated by Colgate had a similar accident off the 60th St Heliport. With similar results unfortunately. And in 2005 a good friend of mine put a 76 into the GOM after losing both engines. Everyone got out and they were all wearing the PFD during the flight, however, the two people who were suppose to throw the raft out, decided they needed to get out more than the raft. From what I have seen and read so far, I don't believe the floats would have done much good. And as for insurance, it has been my experience that private owners in the turbine class tend to carry more insurance than other operators.

As for the old helicopter comment, it really isn't about the build date on the data tag, it is more about the hours,the type of operations done in it and how it has been taken care of. I have flown a couple of 206B's with over 11,000 hours on them. And them were still reasonably nice machines. At the other end of the scale, I have flown aircraft brand new from the factory, where I was not 100% sure I was going to get it home.
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 14:43
  #56 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2009
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FH1100: Very well said. If only the reporters who cover this event would read what you posted. Hope a few do.

Been a while since I flew Jet Rangers (~30 years). A question for those who fly them in and out of heliports:

Is it common practice to do a power margin check, (IGE and OGE, do I droop OGE?) before take off/transition when you are near to max gross (MTOW). (I would hope so).

Thinking through the flying problem confronting the pilot in leaving the heliport at that locaion.

Depending upon where the wind was from, it would seem that if you can't transition into the wind, what with all those buildings in the way, the conservative way out of the heliport is via "the downwind getaway" which would call for a gentle right pedal turn into the transition direction as one begins to accelerate away from the heliport. You are still at the mercy of the engine, vis a vis the HV diagram. That little bit of right pedal would reduce total power required slightly, and leave you with a slightly increased power margin as you move toward and through translational lift.

In re egress training: as noted above, even people with egress training have drowned / been trapped in a helicopter, during sudden landings in water ... for a variety of reasons. (RIP, Ed K. ) .

EDIT: reviewed the comments on wind, and looked at orientation of heliport.
  • The weather was clear but a little windy Tuesday, with winds of 10 mph gusting to 20 mph and visibility of 10 miles, according to the weather station at LaGuardia airport.
  • Wind at the time from the NW at about 15 mph
    As I said before wind from the NW at 15 but a news helicopter pilot reported gusts upto 25mph.
  • Having flown into the East River for 2 summers, I found the NW winds can make for some interesting times. With 15 to 25 Kt winds, the air flow can come over the buildings and then down along the west bank of the river. When added to the wind eddys coming around the buildings, it can be a little sporty.
Sporty indeed!
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 17:22
  #57 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Hawaii, USA
Posts: 18
What if?

As someone that has made hundreds of departures from the 34th street helipad over a 25+ year flying career in NY. I feared this very scenario more times then I can count. Departing in both single and twin engine helicopters both with and without floats.
One topic that has been discussed in the hangar today is the instantaneous transition from IGE hover over the pad to a OGE hover that takes place as the aircraft departs over the bulkhead of the river. Depending on the tide, the aircraft height above the water can be 3-6 feet. With a little tail wind this is problematic.

FAA has indicated damage to a tail rotor blade in some of their initial comments.
What if.......
On departure said 206B lowers the nose to depart the helipad, as the aircraft climbs slightly and begins to accelerate forward. Within feet the aircraft goes from a IGE hover to a OGE state and begins to settle. The pilot, already at a high power setting either 1, a slight amount of aft cyclic, clipping the tail rotor on the bulkhead. Or 2, the tail rotor blade makes contact with the water? I have not seen a clear picture of the stinger and lower vertical fin to see if they are damaged. I suspect water contact.
At this point the aircraft begins to spin (witness's see wild movement), and the rest is history.
From the cockpit the pilot knows the helicopter went from hovering, to flying, to settling, to sinking!
Just sayin'.

Tragic event. Helicopters are still the safest mode of transportation we humans have. Be safe my brothers.
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Old 8th Oct 2011, 07:03
  #58 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2011
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Well done FH1100 pilot..

an intelligent, comprhensive reply..

My humble view on this (with 80+ E34th 206 sorties) is that, whilst the pilot may have had 500ish hours 206 experience, that experience may have been substantially airfield ops.

If so, and considering CG/WB and wind factors... this departure could have been extremely challenging.

Very sad all the same. TP
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Old 8th Oct 2011, 08:53
  #59 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Penzance
Posts: 180
Helicopter pilot: I needed ten more seconds to save British tourist

The pilot of the helicopter that crashed into a New York river, killing a British tourist, has described how he came desperately close to saving her as it sank.

Paul Dudley said that he had repeatedly dived back underwater to try to open a door that would free Sonia Marra, who had been celebrating her 40th birthday in Manhattan.
"If I had had ten more seconds I could have saved her," Mr Dudley told a local televison news reporter, in his first public comment since his sightseeing helicopter plunged into the East River.

Mr Dudley, 56, and three other passengers Miss Marra's girlfriend Helen Tamaki, her mother Harriet Nicholson and her stepfather Paul Nicholson survived the crash, which came seconds after take-off.
Mrs Nicholson, 60, and Miss Tamaki, 43, remain in a critical condition after being dragged unconscious from the river. Mr Nicholson, 71, has stayed at their bedsides in a Manhattan hospital.
A post-mortem determined that Miss Marra, who was trapped underwater for more than 90 minutes, had drowned. Her body was eventually recovered by emergency service divers.

Mr Dudley has told friends and his wife that he believes that "engine failure" was to blame. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board declined to disclose any early findings.

A group of New York politicians yesterday called for a total ban on tourist helicopters in the wake of the crash. Daniel Squadron, a state senator, said: "This tragedy is another clear sign: nonessential helicopters in Manhattan don't make sense for passengers, pilots, or local residents".
Mr Dudley told investigators that before taking a right-turn seconds before the crash, he considered turning left but realised he might hurtle into a "populated area" on Manhattan's streets.
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Old 9th Oct 2011, 12:34
  #60 (permalink)  
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Location: Used to be God's own County
Posts: 1,597
Gob-smacked - no floats, no lifejackets, no redundancy - no hope!!
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