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NTSB Report on Copter Crash-Big Elk Fire

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  • NTSB Report on Copter Crash-Big Elk Fire

    NTSB: Mechanical failure likely cause of deadly helicopter crash
    colon
    LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - Federal investigators say mechanical
    failure likely caused the helicopter crash that killed the pilot
    during the Big Elk Fire near Estes Park in 2002.
    A report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety
    Board indicates turbine problems with the French-made Lama in the
    July 30, 2002, crash that killed Gordon Knight, 52, of Boulder.
    "The turbine was destroyed and had a 'corn cob' appearance,"
    NTSB investigators concluded. They said there was "evidence of
    extreme heat stress."
    According to witnesses cited in the report, the helicopter was
    emitting grinding noises with 3-foot flames shooting from the
    exhaust stack when it crashed.
    Knight was flying the helicopter on behalf of Fort Collins-based
    Geo-Seis, which had been hired by Boulder County fire departments
    to fight wildfires. The sole occupant, Knight had been dropping
    water all day on the 4,413-acre fire when his helicopter crashed.
    He had more than 8,000 hours experience flying helicopters.
    The report's findings still must be accepted by NTSB officials.
    "What the report says is what we know: The turbine overheated.
    We don't know why. The investigators don't know why. Even the
    people who made the helicopter don't know why," said Marc
    Mullenix, wildland fire division chief for Boulder Fire-Rescue.
    Geo-Seis officials declined to comment, saying they had not yet
    read the complete report.
    Mullenix, who helped compile the report, said it appears too
    much fuel was entering the engine. It's a problem the manufacturer
    has seen once or twice before during heavy lifting at high altitude
    in Europe, he said.
    He said it's considered unlikely that Knight accidentally gave
    the engine too much fuel. He said the helicopter's systems are
    supposed to automatically decide how much is needed to accomplish
    the kind of maneuvers the pilot performs.
    The Aerospatiale Lama SA315B helicopter, built in 1978, is
    renowned for its ability to carry heavy loads at high altitude.
    In addition to carrying a bucket for dropping 144 gallons of
    water, the 858-horsepower Lama can deliver firefighters or goods to
    the fire line and pluck injured hikers from mountainsides.
    Two other pilots fighting the Big Elk Fire - Rick Lee Schwartz,
    39, of Ulm, Mont., and Milt Stollack, 56, of Cathedral City, Calif.
    - died July 18, 2002, when the wing of their World War II vintage
    aircraft broke off. The report on that crash is still not public.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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