NTSB releases final report on fatal Flight for Life crash in Frisco

Posted at 11:18 AM, Mar 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-28 20:07:57-04

FRISCO, Colo – The National Transportation and Safety Board has released its final investigation into the cause of a fatal Flight for Life helicopter crash in Frisco.

The final draft of the NTSB’s investigation puts the primary blame on the aircraft’s preflight hydraulic check, which depleted hydraulic pressure. A contributing factor was the pilot's failure to perform a hover check, which would have alerted him to the anomaly, according to the amended probable cause report.

The fiery 2015 crash killed the pilot, 64-year-old Patrick Mahany, and injured two nurses aboard the aircraft. Mahany was a decorated U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam and had flown 27 years for Flight for Life.

The Astar AS350 B3 helicopter was taking off from St. Anthony's Summit Medical Center in Frisco when it came crashing down. The helicopter never gained much altitude. It was about 100 feet off the ground before it came crashing back down.

As a result of the crash, the NTSB has proposed new safety recommendations, including that Astar AS350 B3 helicopters be equipped with a visual and oral alert for loss of hydraulic boost.

Other safety recommendations include:

  • Changes to the dual hydraulic system that would mitigate the possibility of error during any check of the hydraulic system.
  • For existing dual hydraulic AF-350 helicopters, a change that would mitigate the possibility of pilot error during any check of the hydraulic system.
  • Requiring operators of the Airbus Dual Hydraulic AF-350 pilots to incorporate changes for pedal control, hydraulic assistance, to mitigate the possibility of eyelid error during any check of the system. 
  • In collaboration with the Air Medical Operators Association, establish a working group to develop and distribute guidelines for those who purchase, lease, and contract for helicopters regarding the equipment and systems that would enhance the helicopter's crashworthiness.

The two flight nurses who were badly injured in the crash filed lawsuits against the helicopter's operating company, its manufacturer and distributor. 


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