See-and-avoid lapse cited by NTSB in helicopter mid-air collision

By John Croft

Pilots of two electronic news gathering helicopters that collided in July 2007 while reporting a real-time police chase in suburban Phoenix, Arizona failed to use "see and avoid" measures required by visual flight rules, the US National Transportation Safety Board has ruled.

Contributing to the accident, which killed a pilot and photographer aboard each Eurocopter AS350B2, were job duties that required the pilots to perform reporting and visual tracking duties for the TV stations. The NTSB also found that a lack of formal procedures for Phoenix-area news gathering pilots to follow during such police chase operations contributed to the collision.

Among the 10 recommendations the board made to the Federal Aviation Administration on 28 January is a requirement that electronic news gathering operators assign reporting responsibilities to someone other than the flying pilot "unless it can be determined that the pilot's workload remains manageable under all conditions".

Other recommendations included developing letters of agreement for aircraft to specify minimum horizontal and vertical separation requirements, and requiring electronic news gathering operators to use high-visibility blade paint schemes and improved anti-collision strobe lights on their aircraft.

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