Tragic Helicopter Crash Raises Aviation Issues

A Pittsburgh area newly-wed couple died in a helicopter crash in Hawaii last week. The new bride and groom were on a sightseeing helicopter that crashed into the side of a mountain.

It is routine in situations like this that the NTSB would have a team of investigators on-site within a day or two of the accident. The NTSB investigates all U.S. Air Flight 427 whether they involve private aircraft or large commercial airlines. It is not clear whether the helicopter had an on-board “black box,” but if so, that would be the first piece of evidence the investigators will seek to locate. In addition to the black box, investigators typically will do a “tear down” on the engine and inspect other portions of the helicopter for signs of failure.

Our office has been involved in handling a number of aviation cases over the years including our service as one of the lead counsel on the most famous aviation case in the Pittsburgh area, the 1995 crash of U.S. Air Flight 427.  Although the helicopter was no doubt owned by a private sightseeing company, they would be regulated by a host of FAA rules governing issues including whether the pilot was properly trained and whether the aircraft itself had been properly maintained. In order to get answers to those questions, the NTSB will secure the “log book” of the pilot. This is a mandated record that every pilot must keep that lists their history of flying and training. The NTSB will also secure the log books for the helicopter’s engine and hull. These records will contain most of the maintenance information on the aircraft.

In addition to inspecting the helicopter itself, any aviation case involves a consideration of weather conditions.

It would be anticipated that in the coming weeks the NTSB will issue a preliminary report on the accident, and then eventually a final report will be filed by the agency in Washington, DC.