SEATTLE - The National Transportation and Safety Board released its final report on the KOMO -TV helicopter crash near the Space Needle in March 2014.
The findings blamed hydraulic failures with the rotor controls and the main controls. Former KIRO 7 longtime helicopter pilot Clark Stahl broke down what that means.
“Related separate failures, that being the tail rotor which initially caused it to spin,” said Stahl. “And then secondarily, the loss of stipend control which causes the aircraft to be uncontrollable.”
On March 18, 2014, the KOMO helicopter took off from the Fisher Plaza helipad after refueling around 7:30 a.m. Witnesses told KIRO 7 they saw it lift off the helipad, spin and then crash onto Broad Street below.
The crash killed longtime pilot Gary Pfitzner and KOMO photographer Bill Strothman. The fire spread to a car nearby giving a man severe burns, but he survived.
After reading the findings, Stahl says it would be like turning a car's steering wheel and the car not turning.
“It appears he did not have the results that he was expecting and that would be confusing to anybody,” said Stahl. “It's like if you pick up a cup thinking it's coffee, and it's tea. It's kind of a little bit of a shock.”
The NTSB couldn't determine why it lost the hydraulic boost because the fire destroyed the system components. Not all helicopters have a hydraulic system, but the one that crashed that day did. The NTSB ruled that a misconfigured system after the preflight checks is unlikely. But because there was no cockpit recorder system they can't determine for sure.
Stahl is convinced now more than ever the pilot did all he could.
“I suspect,” said Stahl. “It was pretty much outside of his ability to make any inputs that would've made any difference in the final results.”
3/19/2014: Man burned in car is public health employee
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