NTSB issues recommendations to USFS, following the investigation into the fatal helicopter crash on the Iron Complex fire

On Monday the National Transportation Safety Board issued a number of recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service following the NTSB’s investigation into the fatal Carson helicopter crash on the Iron Complex fire in 2008 in northern California which killed nine firefighters and helicopter crew members.

On November 29, 2010, the USFS sent a briefing paper to the NTSB outlining some changes they had already made to their fire aviation program in response to the crash.

Here is a summary of the new NTSB recommendations. The complete memo that the NTSB issued to the USFS is below the summary.

Develop mission-specific operating standards for firefighter transport operations that include procedures for completing load calculations and verifying that actual aircraft performance matches predicted performance, require adherence to aircraft operating limitations, and detail the specific 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 regulations that are to be complied with by its contractors. (A-10-159)

Carson helicopters

Require its contractors to conduct firefighter transport operations in accordance with the mission-specific operating standards specified in Safety Recommendation A-10-159. (A-10-160)

Create an oversight program that can reliably monitor and ensure that contractors comply with the mission-specific operating requirements specified in Safety Recommendation A-10-159. (A-10-161)

Provide specific training to inspector pilots on performance calculations and operating procedures for the types of aircraft in which they give evaluations. (A-10-162)

Require a hover-out-of-ground-effect power check to be performed before every takeoff carrying passengers from helispots in confined areas, pinnacles, and ridgelines. (A-10-163)

Review and revise policies regarding the type and use of gloves by firefighting personnel during transport operations, including but not limited to, compatibility with passenger restraints and opening emergency exits. (A-10-164)

Review and revise your contract requirements for passenger transport by aircraft so that the requirement to install shoulder harnesses on passenger seats provides improved occupant crashworthiness protection consistent with the seat design. (A-10-165)

Require that helispots have basic weather instrumentation that has the capability to measure wind speed and direction, temperature, and pressure and provide training to helitack personnel in the proper use of this instrumentation. (A-10-166)

Modify your standard manifest form to provide a place to record basic weather information and require that this information be recorded for each flight. (A-10-167)

Require all contracted transport-category helicopters to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder or a cockpit image recorder with the capability of recording cockpit audio, crew communications, and aircraft parametric data. (A-10-168)

The NTSB also issued some recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The NTSB’s memo to the USFS is below. (Click the “+” or Fullscreen to see larger versions.)

NSTB Recommendations for USFS – Helicopter Crash on Iron Complex Fire

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.