Heli USA leaders say they’re determined to stay the course until investigation done

Heli USA Airways’ Vice President John Power urged against a rush to judgment against both leaders of his company and pilot Glen Lampton based upon the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB’s) preliminary report on the accident that killed three.

He said leaders of his company are doing all they can to cooperate with NTSB investigators who are looking into the possible cause or causes of a fatal helicopter crash Sept. 23 in ocean waters off Ha’ena.

Power said company officials have full plans to continue tour operations on Kaua’i, though he said he could not dismiss the possibility of civil suits against the company.

Power said the NTSB’s preliminary report did not reveal much beyond what was already known, and that more interviews and an accurate accounting of all aircraft positions on the fateful day needed to be in place.

“The NTSB stated that a complete weather study is to be completed in Washington, D.C., as they consider this a major factor,” Power said of the report which was posted on the NTSB’s Web site (www.ntsb.gov) Tuesday.

He questioned the accounts of other pilots, who told NTSB investigators they did not experience wind shear.

“Several witnesses saw lightning,” said Power. “It’s a very difficult situation. They need to interview all the passengers on the other aircraft, and people who were on the beach, and get a timeline for where all the aircraft were at the time,” said Power.

Power said Lampton was still employed by Heli USA, but is not currently flying.

According to a Heli USA Airways press release, in spite of conflicting reports regarding the location of other aircraft in the area, the original accounts given by the pilot and eyewitnesses state that the pilot was attempting to turn around when the aircraft encountered what has been described as a sudden storm cell in the form of a microburst, causing heavy rain and wind shear, an event which has contributed to devastating accidents even among large commercial airliners.

It was reported that the pilot was attempting to turn around at the time before suddenly losing airspeed and altitude, a result often caused by severe wind shear.

Power said Heli USA Airways officials are conducting their own internal investigation into how the company might improve procedures, especially getting information about weather.

In an unrelated matter, Power said he was unable to comment about whether another Heli USA helicopter pilot had failed a urine drug test about two months ago. Power said he was not familiar enough with the alleged situation.

Heli USA Airways leaders confirmed the Sept. 23 incident was the first in the company’s history involving a fatality. Three visitors died in the crash, and two other visitors and Lampton survived.

According to Federal Aviation Administration accident and incident data, Heli USA Airways had four reported and investigated incidents between February, 1999 and February, 2004. The incidents occurred in Arizona and Nevada, where Heli USA Airways is based.

No serious injuries were reported, but on Feb. 1, 1999, a Heli USA Aerospatiale AS350B lost its left passenger window.

According to FAA data, except for the Sept. 23 incident, there are no open investigations into Heli USA Airways’ operations.

Company representatives said the flight-training procedures consistently exceed FAA requirements, as do the company’s mandatory, two-mechanic signatures on all major-component helicopter maintenance.

Lampton was hired and trained in both Las Vegas and Kaua’i. His training included IMC (inadvertent meteorological conditions) at both locations.

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