Close 1d2 NOW! Prohibit Helicopter MRO ‘Test’ Flights Over our Schools, Homes, and Neighborhoods per FAA FAR rules!
Helicopters started flying at 1d2 in 1980. The Canton population was 48,616 with a density of 1350.44 people per square mile. The population has increased almost 200% since 1980. The 2017 Canton population is now ~93,000 with a density of 2583.3 people per square mile. The township landscape is radically different than it was in 1980! See Population Density Section for more details.
A Robinson R44 II helicopter crashed into a home in a densely populated suburban neighborhood. It violently crashed through the roof in the back of the house smashing and ripping all the way through the home and out the front door area. Both people on board the helicopter died, miraculously none of the 5 people sleeping in the house were injured. Absolutely amazing!
The NTSB Batch Brief for CHI08FA293 states: that the non-instrument-rated pilot departed from the local heliport on a night cross country flight with a passenger. The helicopter impacted an occupied home and terrain about 1.5 miles south of the destination airport.
More detailed NTSB Aviation Results for CHI08FA293 are available containing the gruesome details, conditions, etc. Additionally, there are two youtube videos [one, two] document the aftermath in what appears to be in a small war zone.
Everything Has Changed in Canton Since 1980:
37 Years Worth of Change!
When the local helicopter MRO started in 1980 the Canton population was 48,616 with a density of 1350.44 people/square mile. The 2017 Canton population is now 93,000 with a density of 2583.33 people/square mile. The population density is double from 1980. Canton Township is now a completely different landscape in 2017! Canton Township is completely built out with the exception of 300 acres off of Lotz Road. See Population Density section for more details.
1d2, and the local Helicopter MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul) with its commercial heliport MI79 located on ‘private property’ directly adjacent to 1d2, are completely surrounded by almost one half million people occupying their homes, schools, and businesses, etc. The surrounding communities have outgrown 1d2 which is now a major safety and health debacle in the middle of a suburban ‘densely populated area’. The densely populated areas of Canton and Plymouth includes many schools with well over 6,500 students that are within a 2.5 mile radius of 1d2, for a total of 36 combined schools, some just slightly further away.
The Federal Aviation Administration Federal Aviation Regulations, FAA FAR, or FAR for short, expressly forbids any ‘test’ flights over ‘densely populated areas’.
The FAA defines ‘densely populated area’ as those areas of a city, town, or settlement that contain a large number of occupied homes, factories, stores, schools, and other structures are considered densely populated.
1d2 is surrounded by a ‘densely populated area’ that has no acceptable approach/departure route of flight and no longer provides a reasonable opportunity to execute an off-airport emergency landing that will not jeopardize other persons or property.
Regardless of altitude, it is not possible to make a safe emergency landing for any reason without hazard to persons or property on the ground in the Canton, Plymouth and surrounding communities from 1d2.
The local Helicopter MRO routinely flies helicopter maintenance ‘test’ flights over our community that is defined as a ‘densely populated area’ on a regular basis. The test flights will appear in the FAA Part 145 Repair Station logs.
This represents an unacceptable health and safety risk to our schools, homes, and neighborhoods. See Population Density Section for more details.
Many airports have activities more industrial in nature, ranging from maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) (which occurs nationwide), to specialized aviation services, such as paint and interior completion, to aircraft assembly, fabrication, and manufacturing. A certified FAA Repair Station such the local Helicopter MRO is one such industrial activity.
Airports with industrial aviation tend to be primary airports or very busy non-primary airports, 1d2 is neither! Many of the associated facilities are large in scale and require substantial land, as well as varying levels of access to the airfield, depending upon the specific functions involved. Because of the commercial nature of the facilities, effective planning for such functions requires extensive early coordination with the FAA’s planning, environmental, and compliance specialists. Helicopter MRO activity is more appropriate at Willow Run YIP in an industrial setting, not amongst densely populated neighborhoods with many schools.
What is a Helicopter MRO?
MRO is a general term used throughout the aviation industry, referring to a repair stations as a Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul facility. The term MRO is often used to describe a ‘repair station‘, but is sometimes used by FBOs or other non FAA certificate holding companies employing groups of airframe and power plant (A&Ps) mechanics. There are big differences in capabilities, and of course in price.
A Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) is an organization granted the right by an airport to operate at the airport to provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangars, tie-down/parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, and other airport related services. 1d2 does NOT have any commercially viable FBO.
The FAA term ‘repair station‘ refers to a maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility that has a certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 145 and is engaged in the maintenance, preventive maintenance, inspection, alteration, and testing of aircraft and aircraft products.
An FAA Repair Station can only certify the FAA functions necessary to inspect, repair, replace, or overhaul those aviation articles for which it has been given a an FAA rating.
There are six basic ratings that pertain to FAA repair station capabilities:
- Accessory (limited)
- Airframe (limited)
- Power Plant (limited)
The local Helicopter MRO ratings are highlighted above, and are limited to specific makes and models of helicopters. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some typical service offerings the local Helicopter MRO offers via these FAA Part 145 ratings:
- FAR Part 145 Repair Station
- Bell 206 Component Overhaul
- AAIP Programs
- Robinson Field Overhaul
- Annual Inspections / 100 hour / etc.
- Microvibe II Dynamic Track & Balance
- Aircraft Weight & Balance
- Structural Repair
- Sheet Metal & Cosmetic Repair
- Oil Changes and Lubrication
- Maintenance Tracking & Scheduling
- Temporary Experimental Airworthiness Certification
Other local Helicopter MRO FAA approved capabilities include:
- FAR Part 133 – Rotorcraft External Load Operations (Freight)
- FAR Part 135 – Non-Scheduled Air Charter Operations
- FAR Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations
- HAZMAT – Approved for carriage of Hazardous Materials
The local Helicopter MRO is an FAA licensed 145 repair station that offers a wide range of maintenance services for numerous makes and models of helicopters.
An FAA 145 Repair Station as a certificate holding entity, must comply with a number of FAA requirements regarding areas such as flight operations, maintenance, training, record keeping, data gathering, and maintaining detailed logs.
The FAA Definitions Section contains these useful terms:
Maintenance as inspection, overhaul, repair, preservation, and the replacement of parts, but excludes preventive maintenance.
Major alteration means an alteration not listed in the aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller specifications:
- That might appreciably affect weight, balance, structural strength, performance, powerplant operation, flight characteristics, or other qualities affecting airworthiness; or
- That is not done according to accepted practices or cannot be done by elementary operations.
Major repair means a repair:
- That, if improperly done, might appreciably affect weight, balance, structural strength, performance, powerplant operation, flight characteristics, or other qualities affecting airworthiness; or
- That is not done according to accepted practices or cannot be done by elementary operations.
Overhaul means a process that ensures the aeronautical article is in complete conformity with the applicable service tolerances specified in the type certificate holder’s, or equipment manufacturer’s instructions for continued airworthiness, or in the data which is approved or accepted by the Authority. No person may describe an article as being overhauled unless it has been at least disassembled, cleaned, inspected, repaired as necessary, reassembled and tested in accordance with all applicable rules.
Based on the definitions above and the services and capabilities offered by the local Helicopter MRO show that these are serious commercial repair capabilities that can and will certainly affect appreciably affect weight, balance, structural strength, performance, powerplant operation, flight characteristics, or other qualities affecting airworthiness when required.
Pre- and Post-Maintenance
When anyone goes to a Helicopter MRO with a maintenance issue, problem, or concern, a ‘check flight’ in a helicopter that is or is thought to be malfunctioning may be required to assist in the identification of a defect very much like a ‘road test’ when you take your car into an auto shop. The mechanic will want to verify what you said, what he heard you say, and what he thinks he will do during the maintenance operations, which could include further ‘test flights’ to gather more data, perhaps electronically gathered sensor data as part of the FAA documentation requirements.
Additionally, whenever an aircraft comes out of maintenance, a test or check flight is conducted with the goal of verification and validation of any problems and the work performed to correct the problems. Not unsurprisingly, the FAA FAR contains a regulation covering post-maintenance test flights, FAR § 91.407.
The applicability of 91.407 to a specific situation hinges on the extent to which, if any, work on the aircraft “appreciably changed its flight characteristics or substantially affected its operation.” That’s a fairly broad definition, but certainly one area an owner, the ultimate PIC (Pilot in Charge), should plan for and mitigate risk for whenever any maintenance occurs. And if necessary, a rated pilot makes an operational check of the maintenance performed or alteration is made, and logs the flight in the aircraft records.
But that’s not all the FAA says. Areas requiring consideration and detailed planning for a post-maintenance test flight include other peripheral, but important topics such as piloting currency, insurance coverage, crew/mechanic coordination and other FAA regulations, documents, and logs, to name just a few.
Another key and central regulation is FAR § 91.305, which states any flight ‘test’ must be conducted over open water, or sparsely populated areas, having light air traffic.
There is no safe ‘Test’ area to/from 1d2 and Heliport MI79
Again, 1d2/MI79 are surrounded by just such a densely populated area such that there is no acceptable approach/departure route of flight and no longer provides a reasonable opportunity to execute an off-airport emergency landing that will not jeopardize other persons or property. And regardless of altitude, it is not possible to make a safe emergency landing for any reason without hazard to persons or property on the ground in the Canton, Plymouth and surrounding communities from 1d2.
The Canton-Plymouth population now contains twice as many people, with 36 very close school resources in the PCCS Plymouth-Canton Community School System, and well as over 6,500 students within 2.5 miles of 1d2/MI79. See Population Density Section for more details.
What Are Test Flights?
Most, if not all maintenance operations beyond the most obvious trivial cases cannot always be inspected or ground tested and MUST be tested with a ‘test’ flight!
Historically, the term ‘test’ flight referred to the testing of aircraft before they are ‘certified’ and usually still in research and design, e.g. new aircraft. A ‘test pilot’ was a central focus of a ‘test flight’ that went beyond a proposed flight envelope to ensure desired certification levels are met. This is the old Hollywood stuff.
Based on the cooperation between the FAA and EASA there is now the recognition that there are many different test flight types NOT related to the introduction or modification of aircraft types conducted by research, design or production organizations. A common theme is that many of these flights are considered non-commercial, and that the flight remains within normal flight envelopes. These flight types should therefore NOT be confused with other test flights which go beyond the certified flight envelope.
There are Many Types of ‘Test’ Flights
Based on the reciprocal Part 145 MRO agreement between the FAA and EASA there are many other defined types of flights, e.g. sales flights, end of lease flights, maintenance test flights, charity flights, etc.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of some commonly accepted terms to identify non-commercial flight types performed by an EASA AOC (Aircraft Operator Certificate) under EASA ORO.AOC.125 or FAA equivalent PIC (Pilot in Charge) under FAA FAR.
- Demonstration Flights – The purpose of a demonstration flight is to demonstrate the aircraft’s handling, performance, and functionalities to the competent authority, the media, or to the actual or potential buyers or lessees. The following subcategories of flights may be declared as demonstration flights, depending on the aircraft status and the flight profile:
- (route) proving flight: a flight to demonstrate the aircraft’s flying characteristics and systems to the competent authority, for verification of compliance with the operational requirements.
- public relations flight: a flight targeting official or media representatives.
- Functional Check Flights
- Acceptance flight: a flight for the purpose of demonstrating to customers (lessee, buyer) the actual compliance of the aircraft with the contractual specifications. It involves serviceability aspects.
- Maintenance Check Flight (MCF) – Examples of current terms informally used for an MCF: technical flight, engineering flight, acceptance flight. MCFs that may be required to assist in the identification of a defect, to complete certain maintenance instructions, to verify that maintenance has been properly performed, or to avoid operational disruptions after major maintenance.
- Check flights: flights with the purpose of testing or checking a piece of equipment, which is outside the scope of the MCF;
- Flights performed before the transfer of ownership or at the end of a leasing period.
- Relocation Flights
- ‘Ferry flight’: a flight to a location for maintenance purposes. The aircraft may not be fully serviceable. Examples of ferry flights:
- (1) unpressurised flight,
- (2) gear-down flight,
- (3) flight with one engine inoperative, etc.
- ‘Delivery flight’: a flight to transfer the aircraft from the acceptance location (manufacturer, refurbishment location, previous owner, lessor/lessee, long-term storage) to the operator’s base.
- ‘Positioning flight’: a flight to position the aircraft and its crew members to a location from which a further flight will be performed. For a positioning flight, the aircraft is considered to be fully serviceable.
- ‘Recovery flight’: a flight to position a serviceable aircraft from its current location to an adequately secure location for various reasons (to remove it from a hazardous area, or to recover it from the previous operator whose operator license may be no longer valid).
- ‘Ferry flight’: a flight to a location for maintenance purposes. The aircraft may not be fully serviceable. Examples of ferry flights:
- Training Flights
- (a) ‘Licensing training’: a flight with the purpose of obtaining or maintaining the aircrew license. Refer to Article 5.5 of the Air Ops Regulation.
- (b) ‘Operating training’: a flight performed by the operator with the purpose of training, checking and/or familiarizing a crew member with the operator’s procedures linked to the aircraft being operated. A training flight is usually conducted using the procedures detailed in OM D for CAT operators.
- Other Non-commercial Flights, Examples (non-exhaustive list):
- (a) Private flights or leisure flights,
- (b) Charity flights.
As an example, many ‘test flights’, referred to above as a ‘Maintenance Check Flight’, are performed at the PICs (pilot in command) request “before completion of maintenance ordered “, as the PIC (or EASA AOC) wants to see that the maintenance issue is fixed before concluding the bill and paying the maintenance charges due. This is very similar to picking your car up at the repair shop, you want to make sure that it’s been fixed before you pay, and or course before you fly anywhere! This is just common sense.
Why Are These Maintenance Flights Significant and Dangerous?
- There are many types of non-revenue flights with different risk factors
- WARNING: It is well recognized that a significant number of aviation accidents and serious incidents occur during these non-revenue flights. FAA issues InFO16006 DATE: 5/29/16 that states: “Accidents and incidents as highlighted by the Flight Safety Foundation’s Functional Check Flight Compendium show that non-revenue flights have a higher risk of being involved in an accident or incident than revenue flights.” Here is a pdf of the article Improving Non-revenue Flight Safety suitable for printing that contains guidance material and proposed regulations that target the risks in non-routine operations. Here is the article on Functional Check Flights related to the Functional Check Flight Compendium handbook pdf.
- 30% or more of all ‘functional check flights’ are the root cause of revenue accidents/incidents
Helicopter Crash Caused by Maintenance Issue with One Bolt
When any helicopter is involved, the margin for maintenance error shrinks significantly towards zero. And when that very small margin is exceeded, the results are deadly, as with this very well documented case. One beautiful afternoon in early December 2011, the Eurocopter (Airbus) AS350 lifted off from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport on a twilight tour of the Hoover Dam and the Vegas strip. Just minutes from the dam, the aircraft experienced a sudden climb and turn, followed by a rapid descent, and then crashed into a ravine, killing the pilot and all four passengers.
It was the fourth short flight since the helicopter underwent maintenance the previous day. A mechanic had replaced the fore/aft servo, which sends pilot control inputs to the main rotor. The servo rod is secured with a bolt, washer and nyloc (nylon self-locking) slotted nut. A simple split (cotter) pin is used to prevent the nut from backing off.
When reassembling the parts, the mechanic reused the same nut. It appears he misjudged the nut’s locking capability and forgot or improperly attached the cotter pin. A quality assurance inspector missed the errors and signed the aircraft off as airworthy. After the fourth short flight the nut backed off, the servo rod detached, and the helicopter became uncontrollable, and crashed quickly killing all five people aboard, including the pilot and his four passengers.
Many eurocopters fly into 1d2/MI79 frequently captured in the Noise Abatement Violation logs. Here is the schematic for the Eurocopter, just like the ones that fly into the helicopter MRO, involved in the fatal crash.
The sad, yet avoidable details are described in the following articles and NTSB reports. A single bolt in a helicopter that can have such a devastating effect on so many families is simply unbelievable. An Aviation Week [subscribe/register for free access] article How To Avoid Aviation Maintenance Malpractice discusses this now infamous accident and others. Eurocopter AS350-B2 N27SH Accident Case Study covers the accident in much more detail than presented here.
The NTSB report DCA12MA020 discusses the particular circumstances for the Eurocopter AS350 that is a frequent visitor to the local helicopter MRO. The NTSB final report and NTSB data summary also contain useful details. This article offers another take on Maintenance Malpractice and supplies some useful references.
See Functional Check Flight Procedures for more details regarding some unexpected results with non-revenue flights.
Helicopter Total Loss of Engine Power in Plymouth Michigan
Here is a helicopter crash that occurred in Plymouth. A helicopter departing from 1d2/MI79 less than a few minutes away from 1d2/MI79 experienced a total loss of engine power about 2 miles northeast. The helicopter sustained substantial damage, including damage to the main rotor blades and left side of the fuselage. Fortunately, no one on the ground was injured, maimed, or killed.
Helicopter can be powerful tools, yet so sensitive that tiny external forces like one loose bolt can defeat them instantly. Do we need to wait for this to happen again over one of our schools? NTSB report CEN10CA317, NTSB final report, NTSB summary, NTSB Data Summary, and NTSB Investigation Docket provide all the details.
Accident ID CEN10CA317 Mode Aviation occurred on June 13, 2010 in Plymouth, MI – NTSB # CEN10CA317 – ACCIDENT Nonfatal: HELICOPTER MRO ‘Post Maintenance Flight’. The helicopter had a total loss of engine power about 2 miles northeast of 1d2. See 1d2-crash-fatals for more details, save file for best viewing.
Robinson R66 Flight Checks Example
Another example of a ‘Maintenance Check Flight’ in Robinson MR66 manual for balancing and testing rotors via a Microvibe II Dynamic Track & Balance testing device. This dynamic test requires multiple test flights at varying speeds that cannot be adequately or safely contained in the available ground surface area at 1d2, so ‘test flights’ are conducted over non-airport, e.g. ‘densely populated areas’ including neighborhoods and schools.
R66 Maint. Manual – Robinson Helicopter Company The Robinson R66 maintenance manual, chapter 18 Track and Balance describes how to perform dynamic rotor balancing and in-flight track checks. This requires hookup of a Dynamic Solutions Systems Microvibe II or equivalent. After hookup/setup step 4) requires flying the helicopter thru repeated flight checks at various speeds from 50 thru 140 knots in 10 knot increments, this amounts to 10 flight checks.
Step 5) recheck main rotor balance in hover per step 3
Step 6) perform autorotation RPM check, then recheck main rotor balance in a hover, then recheck via step3)
The point is that this is a complex iterative process that requires repeating 10 passes at varying speeds, hover checks, and autorotation RPM checks. This NOT a trivial test, and will involve a helicopter with a compromised rotor, e.g. that needs balancing and tracking operations to correct.
NOTE: notice the similarity of the R66 main rotor pitch link below to the Eurocopter fore/aft servo rod discussed above! Again, a single bolt in a helicopter that can have such a devastating effect on so many families is simply unbelievable.
Even a Seemingly Simple Sounding Garmin GPS Install/Fix Requires ‘test’ Flights
Even installing something as simple sounding as a GPS requires one or more ‘test’ flights. A GPS in an aircraft is way more different than a GPS in an automobile, both in functionality, and again in terms of cost. A simple basic portable aviation GPS is about ~$600.00, a Garmin HTAWS is in the ~$10,000.00 range, while Honeywell or Sandel models can range up to $60,000.00 or more based on options.
The popular Garmin Systems (HTAWS, G500H), featured on many Bell and Robinson Helicopters, requires post-installation checkout, for example, installation whether new or for a repair, calls for a ‘maintenance check flight’ that is required to evaluate ILS, GPS, communications and autopilot coupling performance. Without this MCF (Maintenance Check Flight) the PIC (Pilot in Charge) could not rely on the GPS to perform the job it is supposed to do.
Additionally, debugging or trying to diagnose a GPS will also require one or more ‘maintenance check flights’ due to tricky nature of diagnosing auto-pilot or ILS problems in general. When autopilots work, they are a valuable safety tool. However, when they don’t work, the problems can be intermittent and difficult to replicate on the ground. The challenge is usually diagnosing the issue, not fixing it.
Helicopter GPS Maintenance Retro-fit Riddle
If not, it should be stressed that as an aircraft owner/pilot, it is absolutely essential that you be familiar with that entire part. It tells who is authorized to do what sort of work on an airplane and how that work must be documented.
For example, if you get tired of the tangle of cables powering your handheld GPS from an accessory power source and want a wire installed directly into the electrical system, what maintenance documentation is required?
To answer that question, you will discover in FAR § 43.9 that you must determine whether this is a “minor” or “major” alteration. Then refer to Appendix A, (a) Major Alteration (xii) Changes to the basic design of the fuel, oil, cooling, heating, cabin pressurization, electrical, hydraulic, de-icing, or exhaust systems.
Appendix A will show that this is a ‘major’ alteration if it is a ‘change to the basic design of the electrical system’.
How can one be sure or not if this is a change to the basic design? This is exactly what the airworthiness inspector at the local FAA FSDO can help with. But in fact, in this particular case, the answer can and has varied from district to district. If the local FSDO says it’s minor, a log entry signed by an A&P will suffice. If the local FSDO say it’s major, you need a 337 signed by an A&P and approved by the local FSDO based on approved data (e.g., an STC or another approved 337 for the same work on another airplane) or field approval by an airworthiness inspector from that FSDO.
FSDO Side Note
As an unrelated side note, this is an example of why it is imperative to ask the FAA FSDO before you start the work. In some cases, you can go ‘FSDO-shopping’ to find one that has approved the modification in the past, and will approve your execution of the same or similar work again. Believe it or not, there’s nothing in the FAA FAR that says the approval has to come from your local FAA FSDO or exclusively from one FAA FSDO employee.
The point of all this discussion is that the PIC (Pilot in Command) is responsible for everything in the maintenance logs on the plane that PIC will fly. Even though FAR Part 61 and virtually every private pilot training course have little or nothing about how maintenance should be performed or documented. Remember FAR 91.7(a) states “No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.”, and that still makes the PIC completely responsible for the airworthiness of any plane that PIC flies, including the maintenance performed and the write-ups in the logs.
Used Helicopter Sales Office
Additionally, the local Helicopter MRO also functions for Helicopter Sales: New, used, low-time, high-time, Bell, Robinson, Airbus, Sikorsky, etc. Factory authorized dealer and service center for Robinson Helicopter Company.
All $ales activities are financially motivated, and this should come as no surprise to anyone, and helicopters sales are NO different! Sales activities include many other non-revenue flights for multiple reasons. All of these ‘test flights‘ are also equally inappropriate and prohibited over a densely populated areas including our schools.
The helicopter NAP violation log shows many helicopter brands coming and going on a regular basis, sales, maintenance, it doesn’t matter, it is not safe in the ‘densely populated area’ of Canton, Plymouth, and surrounding communities. Several in the neighborhood have repeatedly called the FAA to complain about helicopter traffic and the FAA has sent multiple inspectors out to investigate. Nobody seems to know what’s going on over at the local helicopter MRO or how to control it.
Helicopter Sales Transition Training Flight
Here’s a good example of a sales transition training flight to a buyer of a Bell B206 that crashes close to a school and nearby homes.
This Bell B206 accident, a seemingly simple operation with an experienced CFI and helicopter rated pilot that is familiar with the Bell B206. As mentioned previously, there are many types of ‘Test Flights”. This is a good example of Functional Check Flight (2A. ‘Acceptance Flight’), and a Training Flight (4B. ‘Operator Training’).
In the NTSB report ERA16LA104 that occurred Saturday, February 06, 2016 in Linden, NJ, there was 1 Serious injury as reported:
On February 6, 2016, at 1239 eastern standard time, a Bell 206B, N206R, was substantially damaged after it rolled over during takeoff. The purpose of the flight was to provide the private pilot, who was also the owner of the helicopter and was helicopter-rated, transition training in the helicopter. He stated that they performed a preflight inspection, flight control check, and hydraulic check with no anomalies noted. Examination of the helicopter revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration records, the helicopter was purchased by the pilot receiving instruction on January 5, 2016. According to the helicopter’s maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was performed on July 1, 2015. In addition, a 3,000-hour maintenance inspection was performed on the helicopter on December 21, 2015.
According to the pilot/owner, he held a private pilot certificate with a rating for helicopters. In addition, his most recent third-class medial was issued on January 4, 2016. Furthermore, he reported 625 hours of total helicopter flight time, of which, 5 hours were in the same make and model as the accident helicopter.
According to the flight instructor, he held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and rotorcraft-helicopter. He held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine sea and a private pilot certificate with a rating for gliders.
In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on July 22, 2015. In addition, he reported 25,000 hours of total flight time, of which, 2,760 hours were in the same make and model as the accident helicopter, and 1,020 hours were as an instructor in the same make and model as the accident helicopter.
The NTSB accident ERA16LA104 is also covered in other articles such as: Kathryn’s Report: 2016 NTSB ERA16LA104, and Helicopter crashed during landing at Linden airport, to show a few related articles.
Sales 101: Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP) Example
In sale of any used equipment, there is no magic bullet, or guarantee about the true operating condition of that object. Everything in a used sale is a calculated and managed risk. It is not possible to make a profit by overhauling every helicopter or aircraft that goes up for sale. The logs may look good, but if the previous owner opted to not spend the money where they could, the new owner, and people on the ground, could pay the ultimate price.
Unfortunately, there are many examples of hidden engine problems that have led to property damage, and in many tragic cases, lead to the loss of life. In this article the author shows a very useful ‘Buyers Beware Reference List’. One example is for engines that have been approved to operate outside of the manufacturer’s specified operating service limits-under the auspices of an FAA Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP), and the author states that he specifically had issues with main engine shaft bearings as proof of problems with such AAIP programs.
The FAA AAIP is described in AC 135-10B – Approved Aircraft Inspection Program in detail and covered in the FAA FAR on the eCFR — Code of Federal Regulations in §135.419 Approved aircraft inspection program.
FAA or other government programs are not a guarantee of safety or reliability just by using the FAA label. In the article Buyers Beware the author goes on to say that “several aircraft engine manufacturers in the turbine and piston engine categories have published recommendations for early overhauls- or at the very least, tear-down inspections that are based upon a calendar limit (usually a 10 to 12 year cycle), independent from the normal hour and cycle limits.
Unfortunately many owner/operators choose to interpret the rules of the governing authority that oversees their flight operations, and believe that these recommended limits simply don’t apply to them. Again, buyers beware!”
Of course this rule also applies to Helicopter MROs, or any business concern trying to make a profit thru used helicopter or other aircraft sales.
1d2/mi79 Helicopter Completely Destroyed at YIP
The Sikorsky H-34 (company designation S-58) is a piston-engined military helicopter originally designed by American aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky. The Sikorsky S-58 is out of production, but still in civilian service, 2,108 were built from 1953–1970. This thing was totally destroyed!
- 12/22/2003 – NTSB # CHI04LA047 – ACCIDENT, Helicopter MRO, Sikorsky S-58JT destroyed. [see 1d2 crash fatal info, save file for best viewing]
- 05/29/2007 – NTSB # CHI04LA047 – ACCIDENT, Helicopter MRO, Sikorsky S-58JT destroyed. Embarrassing, and costly court case debacle closed.
McMAHON HELICOPTER SERVICES, INC. v. U.S. (E.D.Mich. 5-29-2007), Case No. 04-74133. (E.D. Mich. May. 29, 2007) | Casetext.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN SOUTHERN DIVISION, McMAHON HELICOPTER SERVICES, INC. v. U.S. (E.D.Mich. 5-29-2007), Case No. 04-74133. (E.D. Mich. May. 29, 2007) (pdf)
Hazmat Dangers and Risks
The Transportation of Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) presents its own safety and health challenges. CFR Title 49 Transportation covers all manner of transporting substances from explosives, poisons and flammable gases, liquids, and solids, corrosives, radioactive materials, and infectious disease substances.
These same substances are able to be delivered to the local Helicopter MRO for carriage by helicopter. There are many articles that discuss the carriage and Transportation of Hazardous Materials and an the AVweb Article HAZMAT in the Skies. It’s important to realize that the same HAZMAT rules apply to each and every aircraft while flying. It doesn’t matter if the flight is conducted under FAR Part 91, Part 135, or Part 121. While carriage and transportation rules regulations and process are import. Of equal or greater importance is what do we do when there is an accident?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provides precise guidance on these issues. The ATSDR handbook – Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents (MHMIs) details recommendations for on-scene (prehospital), and hospital medical management of people exposed during a hazardous materials incident. In particular see: Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents Part III: Response and Patient Management that describes how to handle response and care for people exposed to hazardous materials.
Responding to Hazardous Material Incidents at 1d2/MI79
A Report from COALITION FOR AIRPORT AND AIRPLANE PASSENGER SAFETY, Surviving the Crash: The Need to Improve Lifesaving Measures at Our Nation’s Airports states that:
“Today, significant amounts of hazardous materials are routinely present at airports. So many hazardous materials are used at airports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was petitioned to add airports to the list of industries required to report releases under the Toxic Release Inventory.
Because it considers airports part of local communities, the FAA chose to defer jurisdiction on HAZMAT issues, relying on local governments to develop disaster plans for responding to airport HAZMAT incidents. As for day-to-day HAZMAT procedures, FAA Part 139 certification gives airport authorities and air carriers discretion on how to handle and store hazardous materials that are transported by air. Air carriers are, of course, responsible for their cargo, but their employees know how to handle only contained hazardous materials. They are unprepared for emergency situations involving hazardous materials released by accident.” 14 CFR Part 139, specifically see §139.321 Handling and storing of hazardous substances and materials for further details.
The local Helicopter MRO is flying hazmat materials over our schools and neighborhoods without many of us even being aware of it! We need to vigilant and move dangerous helicopter MRO and HAZMAT activity to an appropriate location like Willow Run YIP that has over four square miles of airport.
There is no plan or mention from the surrounding local communities, MDOT, or the SoM regarding disaster plans and how to respond to, manage, contain, and mitigate a HAZMAT incident at 1d2 or MI79. What would the result be if a HAZMAT flight crashed into one of our schools? Who would take care of our schools and neighborhoods then?
Here is sad example that shows the Moment of Impact over the Hudson River uploaded by www.avweb.com. It is a mid-air collision between a Eurocopter, a very common visitor to the area, and a Piper Saratoga. It happens all too easy, just a fraction of a second, do we need to wait for a HAZMAT incident like this to happen over one of our schools?
Helicopters Are Dangerous!
General Aviation aircraft—airplanes, helicopters, balloons, blimps, and everything else—average 7.28 crashes for every 100,000 hours of flight time. The crash rate for helicopters alone is 9.84 per 100,000 hours. That means helicopters crash roughly 35 percent more often per hour in the air than your average aircraft. Of course, these are estimates due to slicing and dicing of statistics based on estimated hours, estimated number of pilots, and estimated numbers of aircraft. It seems almost impossible to break out the stats that really matter as provided by the special interests, most times this appears to be intentional slicing and dicing to dilute what the real dangers and risks of helicopters really are.
By now you can see that helicopters, no matter how useful, must be handled with care, and are dangerous tools that demand the utmost respect, care and handling. If you are still not convinced, all you have to do is use your favorite search engine such as Bing search “helicopter crash or Google search for “helicopter crash” to see how common and frequent helicopter problems and issue occur to convince yourself of the real risks and dangers of testing helicopters over our schools, homes, and neighborhoods.
Even rescue and medical helicopter usage must be examined to make sure the ROI (return on investment) is worth the overall risk involved.
The Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care published the article Medical Helicopter Accidents in the United States: A 10-Year Review [PubMed] that concludes that there was a steady and marked increase in the number of medical helicopter accidents in the United States. These findings are worrisome in light of recent research that has indicated use of medical helicopters may be excessive and non-beneficial for most patients (J Trauma 2004;56:1325–1329).
Also see the article Unchecked carnage: NTSB probes are skimpy for small-aircraft crashes. USA Today states that the NTSB’s investigations don’t dive deep when helicopters and small planes are in accidents.
While it is a challenge to get accurate and meaningful statistics for any aviation activity, the following chart was extracted from the FAA Rotorcraft Directorate (ASW-100) Monthly Accident Briefing and are depicted in Fiscal Year format:
TheHelicopter MRO has been here since 1980, but that doesn’t mean that it still fits into the current landscape of the community. 1d2/MI79 is surrounded by 36 schools.
There are NO other Part 145 FAA Repair Stations / Helicopter MROs in the State of Michigan that are co-located in ‘densely populated areas’ such as Canton, Plymouth, and surrounding communities. There doesn’t appear to be any helicopter MRO anywhere in the US embedded among ‘densely populated neighborhoods and schools’! The point is that any time you “repair” something, you have to “test” something, it should NEVER be tested over schools and neighborhoods period!
Helicopter MROs belong at appropriate industrial facilities like YIP Willow Run with over 4 square miles of airport area instead of 63 acres crammed in among the densely populated neighborhoods and schools of Canton and Plymouth. See Population Density Section for more details.
The Helicopter MRO should be prohibited from issuing “temporary experimental Airworthiness Certifications,” this is a subjective call disaster waiting to happen motivated by strictly financial gains. The issuing of a “temporary experimental Airworthiness Certificate” will result in an Experimental “Test Flights” being conducted over ‘densely populated areas’ including neighborhoods and schools.
Shut down 1d2 and MI79 NOW!
New – Updates, References, etc.
The Real Cost of Helicopter Ownership | An Eclectic Mind
Bill Of The Month: Emergency Air Ambulance Ride Leaves Injured Doctor With $56,6 : Shots – Health News : NPR
Woman dies before air ambulance arrives, still charged $25k – WXYZ.com http://www.wxyz.com/news/national/woman-dies-before-air-ambulance-arrives-still-charged-25k
Call 6: When an air ambulance comes, who pays the bill? – TheIndyChannel.com Indianapolis, IN
Consumer Reports: Shocking cost of air ambulances – WXYZ.com http://www.wxyz.com/money/consumer/dont-waste-your-money/consumer-reports-shocking-cost-of-air-ambulances
Air Ambulances: Taking Patients for a Ride – Consumer Reports http://www.consumerreports.org/medical-transportation/air-ambulances-taking-patients-for-a-ride/
Shocking cost of air ambulances – YouTube
The U.S. Army Wants to Replace Its Helicopters With These – Bloomberg
References and Further Reading
Guidance on the Determination of Helicopter Emissions, December 2015 (pdf)
Assessing Community Annoyance of Helicopter Noise (2017) | The National Academies Press
Helicopter Noise Information for Airports and Communities (2016) | The National Academies Press
The Basics of Maintenance in General Aviation | lycoming.com
Aircraft Flight Test After Repair or Alteration – The FAA reminds us that whenever a repair or alteration has been made to your aircraft or engine, the person authorized to return the aircraft to service should decide if the flight characteristics have changed or if operation in flight has been substantially affected. If the decision is affirmative, the aircraft must be flight tested before it may be used to carry passengers in accordance with FAR 91.407. The test pilot must make an operational check of the maintenance performed and log the flight and findings in the aircraft records.
FAA Subject: Non-Revenue Flight Procedures [5-29-2016]
Purpose: This InFO provides information and best practices for non-revenue flights.
InFO 16006: Non-Revenue Flight Procedures – InFO16006.pdf
Surviving the Crash: The Need to Improve Lifesaving Measures at Our Nation’s Airports
Airplane Return To Service After Extended Downtime
The Effect of Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance Safety
There are several factors that play into the cause of aircraft accidents and some of these factors are known as human factors. The study of how humans can most efficiently interact with technology is known as human factors. According to Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, human error accounts for 70% of commercial airplane accidents. In order to decrease the number of accidents caused by maintenance-related human factors, awareness and training in the field of human factors is critical.
NTSB Batch Brief for CHI08FA293 – Helicopter Crashes into Home
NTSB Aviation Results for CHI08FA293 – Helicopter Crashes into Home
Helicopter Crashes Through Home – YouTube
Helicopter Home Crash – YouTube
Medical Helicopters: Worth the Cost, Risk? – ABC News
NTSB urges fire-resistant tanks for helicopters
FAA to improve helicopter safety, prevent deadly fires
Aircraft maintenance checks – Wikipedia
Aircraft maintenance – Wikipedia
Deadly helicopter crash reported in Pigeon Forge – WBRC FOX6 News – Birmingham, AL
“In several of the tour helicopter cases, we have found that in an effort to give the passengers a more exciting ride, risks were taken that probably shouldn’t have been,” he said. “And they get themselves into problems with tricky winds or other issues they can’t recover from.” WARNING: this story is similar to complaints regarding the helicopter rides during annual 1d2 Canton-Plymouth Mettetal Father’s day Pancake Breakfast fly-in, a real unsafe disaster just waiting to happen.
Helicopter Crashes Into Orlando Home – YouTube [Mar 23, 2015]
Air Crash Investigation Disaster Plane Crash Chopper Down
The Weather Channel – Why Planes Crash [Jan 22, 2016]
A look at helicopters highlights their uses for rescues and rapid responses, but also examines the unique set of dangers involved in their operation.
Helicopter Crash Compilation – YouTube
good views of why balance and testing of rotors is important
Helicopter crashes into Phoenix home – YouTube [May 2, 2012]
Helicopter makes crash landing in Michigan U.P.
Experimental E-AB TH-180 Enstrom Helicopter
Helicopter crash in Twin Cities suburb kills pilot – WAOW – Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports
Accident, Fatal Statistics – Rotorcraft / Helicopters – Research Guides at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Medical Helicopter Accidents in the United States: A 10-Year Review Helicopter Accidents (Final).pdf
http://www.bryanbledsoe.com/data/pdf/journals/Helicopter Accidents (Final).pdf
Helicopter EMS Operations- At what cost – helicopter-ems-operations-at-what-cost.pdf
US Rotorcraft Accident Data and Statistics.pdf
SME Articles (AVWeb, Aviation Safety magazine, Aviation Week, etc.)
[requires paid subscription]
Aviation Safety Magazine
Proficiency On A Budget – Aviation Safety Article [July 2016]
The Cost of Procedural Noncompliance – Aviation Safety Article [March 2016 Issue]
Reluctant Test Pilot – Aviation Safety Article [April 2014]
Known Deficiencies – Aviation Safety Article [November 2014]
Handle With Care – Aviation Safety Article [February 2013]
Post-Maintenance Test Flights – Aviation Safety Article [December 2008]
Post Wrench Test – Aviation Safety Article [December 2000]
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Aviation Week | Aerospace Defense, Business & Commercial News
How To Avoid Aviation Maintenance Malpractice | Business Aviation content from Aviation Week [Dec 7, 2016]
A Failed Post-MX Experience | BCA content from Aviation Week [May 26, 2016]
Challenger Incident Highlights Maintenance Check Flight Perils | MRO content from Aviation Week [Dec 1, 2014]
NTSB: Helo Operators Need More Awareness Of Retrofit Kits | BCA content from Aviation Week [Sep 26, 2016]
Discusses a retrofit kit for existing Airbus AS350 B3e and EC130 B4 helicopters. The NTSB believes installing a crash-resistant fuel system into existing helicopters would help mitigate the safety risk of post-crash fires in survivable accidents. However, the safety board is concerned that owners and operators of FAR Part 27 and Part 29 helicopters may be unaware of retrofit kits to do just that. The NTSB is concerned that FAA and EASA approval for retrofit kit installation will not be prioritized because this is outside the scope of airworthiness.
Post-Maintenance Test Flying | MRO content from Aviation Week [May 26, 2016]
EASA Tackles Non-Revenue Flight Safety | Commercial Aviation content from Aviation Week [May 19, 2015]
Danger Lurks in Non-Routine Flights | AWIN content from Aviation Week [Nov 1, 2009]
Post-maintenance test flights contain an extraordinary number of additional risks.
AVweb » The World’s Premier Independent Aviation News Resource
Criminal Liability in Aviation – AVweb Features Article
Buyers Beware | AvBuyer
Contains an excellent ‘Buyers Beware Reference List’
SOP For Post-Maintenance Flights – Twin and Turbine
How to Survive A Helicopter Crash | Flight Today | Air & Space Magazine
When Poor Aircraft Maintenance Costs Lives | Fiix
Aircraft Maintenance: Avoid autopilot whack-a-mole – AOPA
When autopilots work, they are a valuable safety tool. However, when they don’t work, the problems can be intermittent and difficult to replicate on the ground. The challenge is usually diagnosing the issue, not fixing it.
INTERAGENCY AVIATION TRANSPORT OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR HANDBOOK
TEPP Planning Products Model Procedure Hazardous Materials
Incident Response, Prepared for the Department of Energy Office of Transportation and Emergency Management
Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents (MHMIs)
ATSDR – Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents
Managing Hazardous Materials Incidents
Part III: Response and Patient Management
Transportation of Hazardous Materials – AOPA
HAZMAT in the Skies – AVweb Features Article
Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster Situations, e.g. from aviation accidents
Disaster Manuals and Guidelines Series, No 5
World Health Organization (WHO)
Improving Nonrevenue Flight Safety – Flight Safety Foundation
Guidance material and proposed regulations target the risks in non-routine operations
Improving Nonrevenue Flight Safety – Flight Safety Foundation (pdf)
Guidance material and proposed regulations target the risks in non-routine operations
Functional Check Flights – Flight Safety Foundation
Functional Check Flight Compendium – Flight Safety Foundation (pdf)
FAA – All Information for Operators (InFOs)
FAA – InFO 16006 DATE: 5/29/16
Purpose: This InFO provides information and best practices for non-revenue flights.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – Safety
Functional Check Flights
Mitigating Risk for Non Standard Flights – SKYbrary Aviation Safety
Non Revenue Flights – SKYbrary Aviation Safety