Helicopter Crash May Have Been Caused by Defective Equipment

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) (www.ntsb.gov) has issued the findings from its investigation of a 2010 crash in which a Phoenix businessman, his family and others were killed.

The families of the victims, and others, believe the crash was due to a faulty blade repair. However, the final probable cause report by the NTSB states that after thorough review by investigators, the cause of the crash was due to a sudden change in the control mechanism leading to a loss of control of the helicopter. The report claims that the pilot’s 5-year-old daughter was seated on his lap, at the controls, when the accident occurred. The NTSB report also states it to be “highly likely” that the child pushed down on the control mechanism with her foot, leading to an overcorrection by the pilot, which caused the crash. The families of the victims, and the businessman’s company, dispute these findings.

Services Group of America founder and owner Thomas J. Stewart was killed, along with his wife, daughter, brother-in-law and a company pilot. The family and the company pilot were en-route from their home in northern Arizona to their home in Scottsdale when the accident occurred on Valentine’s Day in 2010.

The NTSB determined that the pilot most likely reacted by rapidly pulling back up on the controls. The sudden, forceful change likely caused the main blades of the helicopter to bend and hit the tail rotor drive shaft of the aircraft. The blade then broke and the aircraft lost complete control. The helicopter crashed into the desert in the community of Cave Creek, north of Phoenix.

Victims Family Disagrees with NTSB Findings

ntsbThe families of the victims say the cause of the crash was actually due to equipment failure, blaming a faulty rotor blade for the accident. Aviation accident attorney Gary C. Robb, of Kansas City, Mo., states that his investigators disagree with the NTSB. Robb has sued Eurocopter and others, claiming that the crash was actually caused by a faulty repair previously made to one of the blades of the helicopter after an earlier problem. Robb’s investigators believe that the blade actually came apart during the flight and caused the accident.

Additionally, the family is taking issue with the NTSB report because Eurocopter assisted the NTSB in the investigation. Eurocopter is even thought to have produced the simulations showing that they were not responsible for the accident, creating an apparent conflict of interest.

Robb said in a recent interview, “Unfortunately, we believe that Eurocopter had some input into that report, as Eurocopter conducted its own evaluation to exonerate itself,”

Stewart’s company, Services Group of America, is looking forward to independent investigations now that the official government report has been released.