Report: “Pilot error” cause of billionaire’s 2009 helicopter crash

Posted June 29, 2010, at 12:18 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:09 p.m.
The helicopter that crashed into the water off Little Deer Isle on Saturday sits on a Belfast Boat Yard tractor-trailer Monday. The helicopter, which was based on the 185-toot luxury yacht Lady Christine, will be taken to the Belfast Airport, where it will be examined by federal investigators. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY WALTER GRIFFI)
BDN
The helicopter that crashed into the water off Little Deer Isle on Saturday sits on a Belfast Boat Yard tractor-trailer Monday. The helicopter, which was based on the 185-toot luxury yacht Lady Christine, will be taken to the Belfast Airport, where it will be examined by federal investigators. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY WALTER GRIFFI)
from the press release: (FOR RELEASE) : BOSTON - A Coast Guard Station Rockland, Maine 25-foot response boat pushes a helicopter that crashed near Little Deer Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine towards shore Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009.? (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Station Rockland)--BOSTON - A Station Rockland, Maine 25-foot response boat responded to a helicopter crash Saturday, 5:35 p.m., near Little Deer Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. A nearby sailing vessel that saw the crash called Station Rockland at 4:50 p.m. to report the incident, and the station launched a boat crew at 4:56 p.m.? The helicopter took off from the 182-foot motor yacht Lady Christine, which was anchored in the area.? Four people were aboard the helicopter and none of them suffered life-threatening injuries.? One person was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for neck pain, but the injury was not considered serious. The Rockland response boat arrived on scene at 5:35 p.m. and while it was en route received a report that all four people aboard the helicopter got out safely after the crash and waded ashore to the island. A small boat dispatched from the Lady Christine picked the four people up and brought them back to the luxury yacht.? One passanger was?then taken back ashore to be treated for the neck injury.? The Rockland Coast Guard small boat at 6:55 p.m. tied up to the crashed helicopter and towed it to shore on the island, where a marine salvage company will attempt to remove it. Two pollution response petty officers from Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in Portland, Maine, drove to the island, which is about 20 miles from Station Rockland and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. About 30 gallons of helicopter fuel was onboard the aircraft when it crashed. A Maine Marine Patrol vessel assisted the Coast Guard during this incident. The Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection will investigate the pollution that may have occurred, and the cause of the crash will be investigated. &quotStati
courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard
from the press release: (FOR RELEASE) : BOSTON - A Coast Guard Station Rockland, Maine 25-foot response boat pushes a helicopter that crashed near Little Deer Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine towards shore Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009.? (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Station Rockland)--BOSTON - A Station Rockland, Maine 25-foot response boat responded to a helicopter crash Saturday, 5:35 p.m., near Little Deer Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. A nearby sailing vessel that saw the crash called Station Rockland at 4:50 p.m. to report the incident, and the station launched a boat crew at 4:56 p.m.? The helicopter took off from the 182-foot motor yacht Lady Christine, which was anchored in the area.? Four people were aboard the helicopter and none of them suffered life-threatening injuries.? One person was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for neck pain, but the injury was not considered serious. The Rockland response boat arrived on scene at 5:35 p.m. and while it was en route received a report that all four people aboard the helicopter got out safely after the crash and waded ashore to the island. A small boat dispatched from the Lady Christine picked the four people up and brought them back to the luxury yacht.? One passanger was?then taken back ashore to be treated for the neck injury.? The Rockland Coast Guard small boat at 6:55 p.m. tied up to the crashed helicopter and towed it to shore on the island, where a marine salvage company will attempt to remove it. Two pollution response petty officers from Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in Portland, Maine, drove to the island, which is about 20 miles from Station Rockland and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. About 30 gallons of helicopter fuel was onboard the aircraft when it crashed. A Maine Marine Patrol vessel assisted the Coast Guard during this incident. The Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection will investigate the pollution that may have occurred, and the cause of the crash will be investigated. "Stati

DEER ISLE, Maine — The Scottish billionaire whose helicopter crashed off the coast of Deer Isle last August told federal investigators the crash occurred because of “pilot error.”

The comments from the pilot, Lord Irvine Laidlaw of Scotland, were included in a Factual Report issued last week by the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the report, NTSB investigators reviewed the evidence collected since the helicopter crashed on Aug. 1, 2009, landing in the waters of Swain’s Cove off Little Deer Isle. The helicopter had taken off from the helipad on Laidlaw’s 185-foot luxury yacht Lady Christine.

Laidlaw, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, and three passengers received minor injuries in the crash, which caused extensive damage to the helicopter.

According to the NTSB report, the aircraft was flown to and along a shoreline approximately 400 feet above mean sea level.

“The pilot began maneuvering the helicopter, and it then began losing altitude,” the report said. “Prior to impacting the water, the pilot deployed the emergency skid-mounted floats in order to prevent the helicopter from sinking.”

The report quoted an eye-witness who said the helicopter appeared “… to just hover, pointing roughly east, then suddenly spin and face west … then it tilted and spun around while losing altitude.”

In a written statement, according to the report, the pilot reported he had entered an “out-of-ground effect” hover and initiated a left pedal turn.

“He further stated that the helicopter started turning faster than commanded, that he was unable to regain authority and ‘that the accident was totally pilot error with no mechanical malfunction.”’

Information from an advisory circular issued by the Federal Aviation Administration noted that unanticipated yaw — also referred to as loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE) — is a “critical, low-speed aerodynamic flight characteristic.” The circular also noted that LTE is not related to a maintenance malfunction and may occur in varying degrees in all single main rotor helicopters at airspeeds of less than 30 knots, according to the Factual Report.

The helicopter was taken by barge to Belfast Harbor and then moved onto land for examination. A preliminary NTSB reported last August indicated that no mechanical problems were reported before the crash.

The Factual Report included the details of the damage to the helicopter based on an examination by personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Rotocraft Directorate and noted “no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions was noted during the examination.”

The Factual Report does not contain an NTSB conclusion on the cause of the crash. Still due is a Probable Cause report which, according to an NTSB spokesman, will include the actual cause of the accident and final conclusions. No date is set for the release of that report.

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in State