Sat-Tracking Systems May Aid Midair Probe

By James T. McKenna | July 11, 2008
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Satellite-based tracking systems from each aircraft may aid the investigation into the June 29 midair collision of two EMS helicopters in Flagstaff, Ariz. The seventh victim of that crash, Flight Nurse James Taylor from the Classic Helicopters Bell Helicopter 407, died July 4 of injuries from the crash. That aircraft was equipped with a satellite tracking system that provided updates on the flight to Flagstaff Medical Center every 4 min. But the Air Methods 407 that collided with it about a quarter mile from the center had an Outerlink system that updated reports every 30 sec. Teams of investigators led by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board also are culling other data sources. A security camera on the medical center's parking garage recorded the collision; its images likely can't be enhanced much, but may help verify the airspeed and flight angle of each aircraft. Later this month, an NTSB investigator will travel to Hartford, Conn. to supervise analysis of engine control units from each of the 407s at the units' manufacturer, Goodrich. Investigators hope non-volatile memory in the units' computer chips may provide details on collective and throttle position, altitude and performance parameters. Investigators also have information from the crews' communications with their respective operations centers and the medical center, as well as a handheld GPS unit from one of the aircraft. Both aircraft were heavily damaged post-collision, but the Classic 407 shows signs of main rotor blade strikes on the underside of its tail boom. For related news


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