Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Crash that killed US Forest Service firefighters revives concerns about government aircraft

An investigation into the crash of a U.S. Forest Service firefighting helicopter that killed nine people two years ago has revived concerns about the safety of government aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board meets Tuesday to determine the cause of the Aug. 5, 2008, crash near Weaverville, Calif., and make safety recommendations. The Sikorsky S-61N helicopter was carrying firefighters from the front lines of a stubborn wildfire in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. It had been airborne less than a minute when it lost power and fell into the forest. Seven firefighters, the pilot and a Forest Service safety inspector were killed. The co-pilot and three firefighters were injured. Documents previously released by the board indicate the helicopter, leased to the Forest Service by Carson Helicopters of Grants Pass, Ore., was at least 1,000 pounds overweight when pilots tried to take off from a rugged mountaintop clearing. The documents also indicate Carson may have understated the weight of the helicopter, as well as others in its fleet, preventing the pilots from accurately calculating if the chopper had enough power to carry 13 people plus firefighting equipment and fuel...more

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