February 17, 2009
The NTSB is focusing on a bird strike as the cause of the Jan. 4 crash of an S76 helicopter in the Gulf of Mexico. The helicopter was transporting Royal Dutch Shell workers to an offshore oil platform in clear weather. The NTSB quickly ruled out most of the more common causes such as fuel starvation or mechanical failure. The reason for the crash puzzled investigators, causing Shell to temporarily ground its entire fleet of S76 helicopters.
The helicopter’s cockpit voice recorder captured a sudden loud bang followed by wind noise. One second later, the power from both engines dropped considerably. According to the NTSB, the theory is that debris struck the throttles, retarding them. Investigators are working to confirm this theory and have sent some of the material found in the cockpit to experts to determine if it came from a bird.
According to the manufacturer, operators sometimes replace the windscreen with a weaker acrylic version to save weight. There is speculation that a letter is forthcoming to warn operators of the increased danger of using these windscreens. Petroleum Helicopters, who operated the helicopter, has not commented.
This model helicopter is very popular with corporate flight departments and oil companies for transporting workers to offshore platforms. If the NTSB confirms the cause as a bird strike, it would have happened two weeks prior the bird strike that forced a US Airways airliner to ditch in New York’s Hudson River.
As the cold weather chills AOPA’s Headquarters in Frederick, many of us are inside generating new resources for flying clubs.
In my house, every Friday night is “Movie Night.” While the movies are rarely educational (I don’t think I learned anything from the Lego Movie), we look forward to the weekly opportunity to spend time together. Why not use the same concept for your Flying Club (with the addition of education, of course)?
AOPA Flying Club Manager Kelby Ferwerda posted the following on the AOPA Flying Club Facebook Page: “Recently I’ve talked with quite a few Flying Clubs about maintaining social activity through the cold winter months. Some clubs host Holliday Parties, others have Potluck Movie Nights. What does your club do to keep members involved during the chilly months?”
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