NTSB urges inspections of Bell 407 helicopters following crash investigation findings

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging immediate action following an investigation of a helicopter crash that occurred on June 8 of this year near Kalea, Hawaii.
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 6:49 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The National Transportation Safety Board is urging immediate action following an investigation of a helicopter crash that occurred on June 8 of this year near Kalea, Hawaii. According to a report from the NTSB, the pilot and the five passengers on board sustained injuries that ranged from minor to serious, and immediate action is required to prevent the issue from happening in similar aircraft.

According to reports, the Bell 407 flightseeing helicopter was in the air for about 30 minutes before it started spinning uncontrollably to the right. One of the passengers, according to the NTSB, reported seeing something fly off the aircraft. Later findings show that the helicopter suffered an in-flight break-up, loosing its tail boom. The NTSB said the tail boom was found between 600 to 800 feet from the rest of the aircraft on the crash site. This, the NTSB said, was alarming to them and sparked investigations.

“The tail boom separated from the main fuselage from the attach point. There are four main bolts and fittings we’re finding fatigue in there,” Clint Johnson, the Alaska Regional Chief for NTSB said.

The NTSB said the cause behind the failure is still unknown. This is still an ongoing investigation. But they are urging for immediate action from Bell Manufacturing, the FAA and Transport Canada asking them to require immediate and more frequent inspections, according to a NTSB report.

“What this recommendation does is tell operators that we are looking at an area of concern,” Johnson said. “The problem is we don’t know what we don’t know at this point.”

Johnson said that the Bell 407 model is a popular aircraft seen in Alaska and worldwide. One of the companies that uses them in this state is LifeMed Alaska. The company has two Bell 408 helicopters in their air ambulance fleet.

In a statement from LifeMed Alaska, the company said they are “aware of the announcement from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for immediate and more frequent inspection of certain components of Bell 407 helicopters.”

“LifeMed Alaska contracts with Air Methods Corporation of Greenwood Village, Colorado, to operate and maintain two Bell 407s based in Soldotna and Wasilla. LifeMed routinely reviews recommendations when published by regulators and implements updated procedures to ensure we not only meet the standards but exceed them. We are committed to our mission of safely providing critical care medivac services to all of Alaska.”

At this time, the NTSB said they are not recommending the discontinuation of Bell 407s, but they are asking that agencies take action by completing inspections.