DENVER – More than three years after a fiery Flight for Life helicopter crash in Frisco, the Federal Aviation Administration will start requiring crash-resistant fuel systems onboard every newly built helicopter.
The change comes after a series of 9Wants to Know investigative reports detailed a loophole in federal law that had allowed, for decades, manufacturers to continue building helicopters with antiquated fuel systems.
Those fuel systems were prone to rupturing after otherwise survivable helicopter crashes.
In the Frisco crash, for example, the Flight for Life’s plastic fuel tank ruptured immediately after the helicopter hit a parking lot outside of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center on July 3, 2015.
Fuel quickly poured onto flight nurse Dave Repsher’s flight suit. The resulting fire left burns on more than 90 percent of his body.
The problem, one documented and largely eradicated by the military in the 1970s, had quietly plagued the civilian helicopter industry for decades.
Wednesday, the United States Senate passed the long-anticipated Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill. The bill renews the FAA’s budget for the next five years.
Within the reauthorization bill is a provision that now mandates helicopter manufacturers to equip all newly built helicopters with a crash-resistant fuel system.
The provision, added as an amendment by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and Rep Jared Polis (D-Colorado), comes as a direct response to the Frisco crash.
Both credit 9Wants to Know’s “Fueling the Fire” series as an impetus for the change.
9Wants to Know found more than 170 helicopter crashes since 1994 that resulted in catastrophic fires.
Since the 2015 Colorado crash, post-crash fires have also caused multiple deaths in Arizona and Tennessee.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the FAA reauthorization in the coming days.