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Midair Collision of Electronic News Gathering (ENG) Helicopters, KTVK-TV, Eurocopter AS350B2, N613TV, and U.S. Helicopters, Inc., Eurocopter AS350B2, N215TV, Phoenix, Arizona, July 27, 2007
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Event Summary

Board Meeting : Midair Collision of Electronic News Gathering (ENG) Helicopters, KTVK-TV, Eurocopter AS350B2, N613TV, and U.S. Helicopters, Inc., Eurocopter AS350B2, N215TV, Phoenix, Arizona, July 27, 2007
 
1/28/2009 12:00 AM

Executive Summary

On July 27, 2007, about 1246 mountain standard time, two electronic news gathering (ENG) helicopters, N613TV and N215TV, collided in midair while maneuvering in Phoenix, Arizona. The Eurocopter AS350B2 helicopters, from local channels 3 and 15, had been covering a police pursuit. N613TV, the channel 3 helicopter, was operated by KTVK-TV, and N215TV, the channel 15 helicopter, was operated by U.S. Helicopters, Inc., under contract to KNXV-TV. Each helicopter had a pilot-reporter and a photographer on board. The occupants on board both helicopters were killed, and the helicopters were destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The helicopters were operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. No flight plans had been filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was both pilots' failure to see and avoid the other helicopter. Contributing to this failure was the pilots' responsibility to perform reporting and visual tracking duties to support their station's ENG operation. Contributing to the accident was the lack of formal procedures for Phoenix-area ENG pilots to follow regarding the conduct of these operations.

The safety issues discussed in this report focus on the limitations associated with the primary method of separation used during ENG operations; methods for improving an ENG pilot's awareness of other helicopters operating in the same area; and the need for (1) meetings of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and ENG personnel to discuss operational procedures and manage risk, (2) ENG best practices guidelines, and (3) flight recorder systems for smaller aircraft. Safety recommendations concerning these issues are addressed to the FAA.

Recommendations

New Recommendations

As a result of the investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration:

Require electronic news gathering operators to assign reporting responsibilities to someone other than the flying pilot unless it can be determined that the pilot's workload would remain manageable under all conditions. (A-09-02)

Require electronic news gathering operators to use high-visibility blade paint schemes and high-visibility anticollision lights on their aircraft. (A-09-03)

Develop standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems so that pilots can be alerted to the presence of other aircraft operating in the same area regardless of their position. (A-09-04)

Once standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems are developed, as requested in Safety Recommendation A-09-04, require electronic news gathering operators to install this equipment on their aircraft. (A-09-05)

Host annual electronic news gathering (ENG) helicopter conferences by major metropolitan region to discuss operational and safety issues affecting all ENG operations as well as those issues that pertain to the specific region. (A-09-06)

On the basis of the safety issues identified at the regional conferences discussed in Safety Recommendation A-09-06, develop letters of agreement (LOAs) or amend existing LOAs to specify minimum horizontal and vertical aircraft separation requirements. (A-09-07)

Incorporate pertinent information from Helicopter Association International's ENG [electronic news gathering] Aviation Safety Manual into an advisory circular detailing best practices for ENG operations. (A-09-08)

Require the installation of a crash-resistant flight recorder system on all newly manufactured turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a flight data recorder and are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91, 121, or 135. The crash-resistant flight recorder system should record cockpit audio (if a cockpit voice recorder is not installed), a view of the cockpit environment to include as much of the outside view as possible, and parametric data per aircraft and system installation, all to be specified in European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment document ED-155, "Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Lightweight Flight Recorder Systems," when the document is finalized and issued. (A-09-09) (Supersedes Safety Recommendation A-03-62)

Require all existing turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder and are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91, 121, or 135 to be retrofitted with a crash-resistant flight recorder system. The crash-resistant flight recorder system should record cockpit audio, a view of the cockpit environment to include as much of the outside view as possible, and parametric data per aircraft and system installation, all to be specified in European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment document ED-155, "Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Lightweight Flight Recorder Systems," when the document is finalized and issued. (A-09-10) (Supersedes Safety Recommendation A-03-64)

Require all existing turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a flight data recorder and are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91, 121, or 135 to be retrofitted with a crash-resistant flight recorder system. The crash-resistant flight recorder system should record cockpit audio (if a cockpit voice recorder is not installed), a view of the cockpit environment to include as much of the outside view as possible, and parametric data per aircraft and system installation, all to be specified in European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment document ED-155, "Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Lightweight Flight Recorder Systems," when the document is finalized and issued. (A-09-11) (Supersedes Safety Recommendation A-03-65)

Previously Issued Recommendations Classified in This Report

The following safety recommendations are classified "Closed-Unacceptable Action/Superseded" in section 2.7 of this report:

Require the installation of a crash-protected image recording system on all turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are manufactured after January 1, 2007, that are not equipped with a flight data recorder, and that are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 135 and 121 or that are being operated full-time or part-time for commercial or corporate purposes under Part 91. (A-03-62) (Superseded by Safety Recommendation A-09-09)

Require all turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are manufactured prior to January 1, 2007, that are not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder, and that are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91, 135, and 121 to be retrofitted with a crash-protected image recording system by January 1, 2007. (A-03-64) (Superseded by Safety Recommendation A-09-10)

Require all turbine-powered, nonexperimental, nonrestricted-category aircraft that are manufactured prior to January 1, 2007, that are not equipped with a flight data recorder, and that are operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 135 and 121 or that are being used full-time or part-time for commercial or corporate purposes under Part 91 to be retrofitted with a crash-protected image recording system by January 1, 2010. (A-03-65) (Superseded by Safety Recommendation A-09-11)




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