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NTSB Chief: Doors-off Helo Flight Was 'Death Trap'

In language that was uncharacteristically blunt and direct, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Robert Sumwalt accused the doors-off photo tour company NYONair, parent of FlyNYON, of turning “a perfectly good helicopter into a death trap” and characterizing it as “madness.” Sumwalt praised the airmanship of accident pilot Richard Vance. ( More...

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joe johnson 25
Nice to see there are a few adults left in Washington. Bravo NTSB.
bbabis 18
The biggest problem with doors-off flight in helicopters is objects leaving the cabin and damaging the tail rotor, not egress in case of water landing. Of all the factors leading to this tragedy mentioned in the NTSB report, the design of the AS350's fuel shutoff system should have received headline billing.
skylab72 1
>Doors Off< was not the problem here...
Uh, no. The fuel shutoff has operated just fine over the life of the helicopter. If you read the article, you see the operator installed passenger harnesses that dragged over the fuel lever. That is the problem.
sharon bias 16
There are so many action scenes where SWAT/military are hanging out of helicopter doors that this seems to be a perfectly good way to get a better view of the ground and surrounding area. What people don't realize is that those folks have hours and hours of training to do that. The placement of the fuel shutoff system within reach of the untrained passengers was a huge design flaw. You wouldn't place a duplicate car gas petal in the back seat.
Mike Petro -4
I experienced engine failure in my '61 VW beetle many times as it was not equipped with a fuel gauge.
Greg S 5
I've never known of such blunt statements from the NTSB. This must've really been an unprecedented level of recklessness.
Hans Siegl 5
Robert Sumwalt is the right man in the right spot. He names the things as they are, no fuzzing around with words - as it is so common today.
Just remember what he said about NOTAMS.
Good man!
Edwin Cuneo 8
Yes, open doors are very dangerous wich I learned flying my Huey in Nam around 1965. As I was transporting V.C. to their prison camp, several just jumped out rather then be imprisoned.
Bandrunner 3
At least they knew how to egress the aircraft safely. Encountering the terrain; well, more training needed.
MrTommy 1
Thaaaaaaat's right.
Mike Petro 1
Of course they did.
The week before we moved into 'government quarters', a soldier fell out of a helicopter and landed in our backyard. What a great way to start that stint in a new home. ICK! And one would think that the dead soldier was an 'expert' at flying in a helicopter with the doors off. Putting your average human into that circumstance seems incredibly reckless. Wow, just wow...
bbabis 8
So sorry, that had to have been awful. Still, military operations and civilian sightseeing is an apples to oranges comparison. Tragically many soldiers have fallen from military aircraft for various reasons while I cannot recall a single instance of a passenger falling from a sightseeing aircraft of any kind. I vaguely remember something about a passenger falling from an open cockpit aircraft during aerobatics but that is far off this subject.
Frank Harvey 3
In this case it appears the restraint system kept the victims securely restrained inside the cabin. It also appears there was no way they could release the system and the cutting tool provided was either inadequate, unreachable or they were unaware of it.

Sometimes restraint systems trap the victim rather than protecting them. How many automobiles have a tool, adequate to cut the "seat belt", within reach of a victim trapped in an inverted position where their weight prevents the buckle release from functioning ? Imagine trying to do this submerged.
bbabis 5
Many safety decisions come down to the lessor of two evils. We will never be perfect but we can keep trying to get as close as we can.
I know you meant "lesser", but "lessor" makes for an appropriate pun here. It always comes down to money; who pays the bills, makes the decisions.
Stefan Sobol 2
I rolled a car over in a ditch once. Getting the seat belt to release was no problem. Just press the button like normal. Had to climb out the rear hatch because none of the doors could be opened.
Edwin Cuneo 1
Also my gunner pushed several V.C. out the side door of my Huey at my instructions...only those p.o.w.'s who wouldn't talk were tossed out from a high elevation above open active volcanos.
It was reported that the engine failed. I totally disagree!
Bernie20910 1
Shocking as it may seem, this usually does happen when you shut off the fuel supply.
Philip McNiel 0
The biggest safety lesson we can learn from this isn't just about helicopter rides--ever since I saw the video and heard the accompanying story of Air France flight 296, every time I get in an airplane I make sure I think through how to get out of any seatbelt or safety harness it might use (granted, for your average commercial plane it's pretty simple, but you still might need to pay attention to where the buckle is located and which side it opens from).

If I were flying with children I would 1000% make sure they showed me they knew how to unbuckle an airplane seatbelt--one contributing factor to the AF296 fatalities was that the kids were only familiar with push-button car seatbelt release mechanisms and could not figure out how to unbuckle the kind used in airplanes, leading to their deaths (and that of an accompanying adult who went back for them) by smoke inhalation.


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