KUSA – Citing the fiery crash of a Flight for Life helicopter in Colorado last year, the National Transportation Safety Board is redoubling its efforts to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to quickly approve more robust fuel systems for one of the nation’s most popular civilian helicopters.
The move follows a series of 9Wants to Know reports documenting dozens of post-crash fires with the AS-350 model since 1994.
The Flight for Life that crashed in Frisco, Colorado, last year was the latest version of a helicopter commonly called the A Star. The FAA has yet to require the Airbus AS-350 B3e -- or any other helicopter model certified prior to 1994 for that matter – to have a fuel system that would be able to withstand the latest federal standards for crashworthiness.
Seconds after the Flight for Life helicopter hit a hospital parking lot on July 3, 2015, it erupted into a wall of flames. One flight nurse remains hospitalized nine months later with life-threatening injuries. The pilot, Pat Mahany, died mostly as a result of massive internal injuries, but an autopsy report indicates the fire was partially responsible for his death.
Video exclusively obtained by 9Wants to Know, shows fuel pouring from the helicopter less than six seconds after the helicopter hit the pavement. All three people inside survived the initial impact.
This week, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart issued a safety recommendation urging the FAA to “prioritize its approval to accelerate” the approval of an Airbus retrofit design for a more crashworthy fuel system.
Without FAA approval, the design can’t make its way into the market where industry insiders acknowledge an increased demand for the product after the Frisco crash.
In addition, the NTSB wants the FAA to issue a “Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin” to all owners and operators of the AS-350 B3e urging them to install the retrofit “as soon as practicable.”