Thursday, December 30, 2004

NTSB cites cargo cable
in 2003 copter crash

WAILUKU » The probable cause of a fatal commercial helicopter crash on Kahoolawe was the pilot's failure to remove the external load cable before the flight, the National Transportation Safety Board has found.

The board said Tuesday that the 41-foot cable struck the tail rotor, which became entangled and separated from helicopter, crashing on the former bombing target island on May 22, 2003.

Killed in the crash was pilot Gary D. Freeman, 55, of Lipan, Texas, who had more than 35 years of experience, including 10 years flying off and on for Pacific Helicopter Tours Inc. of Maui.

Freeman had conducted three external load transports earlier that day between Puunene, Maui, and Kahoolawe, the last one carrying a 3,000-pound fuel pod on the 41-foot external load line.

After dropping off the fuel pod at the landing zone on Kahoolawe, he departed for Puunene with the 41-foot line still attached.

An eyewitness saw the cable, swinging freely under the aircraft, slap the undercarriage one time before it struck the tail rotor, resulting in the crash at about 11:50 a.m., according to the board's report.

According to Pacific Helicopter, it is not normal procedure to fly between Kahoolawe and Maui with the cable attached without a load, the board said.

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