Is There No End to NTSB Laziness and Incompetence in Air Crash investigations? While Nazi’s were running amuck in Charlottesville Va. a Virginia State Police Helicopter manned by one of its most experienced pilots, Lt. Jay Cullen, who with Trooper Berke Bates had just chased down the driver of the car that crashed into counter demonstrators, was hovering over the Governor’s motorcade when suddenly the Bell 407 started spinning and tearing itself apart in mid-air. The damage was so severe that it crashed to the earth at over 6000 feet per minute trailing separated parts a number of which have never been found including a main rotor link the loss of which likely would explain the accident.

The NTSB dutifully asked for the “help” of the helicopter manufacturer and the engine manufacturer as well as the Va. State Police and while doing nothing for years refused to allow representatives of the victims to see the wreckage until a lawsuit was filed against it.

The original preliminary report seemed to focus on something called Vortex Ring State as the cause. Vortex Ring State is a phenomenon almost unheard of in the Bell Model 407 which causes the rotor blades to stall because the uprush of air through them from the bottom exceeds their ability to generate enough lift to fly out of the vortex. This is caused by a deliberate descent at high rates or hovering of the helicopter out of ground effect  and a lower descent rate which causes stalling of the rotor system at the hub where the blades attach. Vortices that develop can negate lift from the remainder of the blades. The recovery procedure is simple and quick and is a sudden turn out of the vortex or an autorotation which every pilot even with just a few hours in helicopters is taught. This helicopter was just a few thousand feet in a hover so such a descent would have never occurred voluntarily, and the data shows it did not and a Vortex Ring State cannot occur absent that descent. Moreover the rate of descent was so high almost immediately it was evidence of in-flight break-up not Vortex Ring State.

The NTSB stated that it believed that the Vortex Ring State was the culprit and that its review of training records didn’t reveal any training in that phenomenon or recovery from it by the pilot in years. As a pilot for fifty years, I can state categorically that training records do not record all elements of training especially one as bizarre and of no consequence in the Bell 407 as Vortex Ring State.

The NTSB never interviewed a single pilot who was trained by Lt. Jay Cullen because had it done so it would have learned that he regularly taught Vortex Ring State to his students and also the recovery technique and practiced it with them frequently.

Had the NTSB taken the minimal effort that it is required to do by statute to interview those who performed Lt. Cullen’s training it would have known that he was taught Vortex Ring State and recovery regularly and knew all about it.

Had the NTSB been even remotely interested in coming to the correct conclusion as to the cause of the accident, it would have contacted the families of the victims to obtain the names of the students and others who were aware of Lt. Cullen’s masterful skills at flying helicopters.

Had the NTSB not been in the pocket of the helicopter manufacturers of engines and airframes it would have consulted experts in helicopter design and performance and would have known that the flight path of the helicopter was completely inconsistent with that cause.

Indeed, had the NTSB simply spoken with Bell 407 operators, as The Wolk Law Firm has it would have learned that any suggestion that Vortex Ring State had anything to do with this accident was completely unfounded. Instead the NTSB did nothing!

The NTSB, fierce in its loyalty to industry, simply visited another insult to the families of these State Troopers who were doing their job to protect Americans, all Americans. Instead of getting to the bottom of why this accident happened and finding the broken parts, it instead obstructed the families for years from seeing the wreckage so their representatives and experts could find the broken parts and come to the correct conclusion supported by the evidence. It should be ashamed of its laziness and complete failure to comply with the investigative processes mandated by both the NTSB Accident Investigation School and the ICAO Manual of Aircraft Accident Investigation.

The Wolk Law Firm will get to the bottom of the cause of this accident so others who might be victims are protected, and once again embarrass the NTSB by showing in Court that the NTSB got it wrong again.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 15, 2020

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Mountain flying is a dangerous undertaking in most general aviation aircraft. Recently an old Cessna 172 flying in the mountains crashed in a valley in Utah.

No one has looked at the wreckage to see if a mechanical failure brought the airplane down but examination of pictures of the wreckage reveal that it did not break apart in the air and crashed at the bottom of a deep valley.

Here are a few observations that may bear on the cause of this accident. The airplane was full of people and that made it heavy if not overweight. On its best day a Cessna 172, of that vintage built in the 70’s, fully loaded at sea level may climb at 800 feet/minute. Above sea level like in the mountains and in warm temperatures that climb rate can go to just a few hundred feet a minute.

Depending on the winds in the valleys and on the downslopes of the mountains, downdrafts in excess of 3000 feet per minute are common. Even eddies of unstable warm air rising and descending unevenly in the valleys can cause turbulence and downdrafts which far exceed the ability of a loaded C-172 to outclimb them. In fact the terrain itself will rise at a rate faster than this aircraft can outclimb it.

Some of the most experienced mountain flyers and even gurus in mountain flying have perished doing what…flying in the mountains!

This aircraft’s engine must be carefully examined to see if a loss of power contributed to this tragedy but flying small planes in the mountains have and will continue to produce this kind of accident because when trouble rears its ugly head there is no place to go.

The Wolk Law Firm has successfully handled countless mountain flying accidents.

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 7, 2020

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The seaplane midair accident over the lake in Cour d’Alene, Idaho  brings to tragic attention how dangerous sightseeing flights over scenic areas can be for the occupants of these aircraft.

As an Airline Transport Pilot also for single and multi-engine seaplanes, I can attest first hand that the concept of “see and avoid” which is how the FAA expects pilots to keep from hitting each other is especially ineffective when flying over an attractive natural wonder like the lake at Cour d’ Alene. There are so many in flight distractions from watching boats on the lake, to embracing the site of the surrounding hills and the brilliant natural foliage, it is difficult to see in the first place let alone avoid another aircraft competing for those distractions. 

The only way such a flight should ever be attempted is using the latest traffic avoidance technology such as TCAS or TCAD and communicating with air traffic control, in this case Spokane Approach Control, to obtain traffic avoidance assistance when able. Flying low over the lake, while exciting diminishes the effectiveness of this equipment and traffic advisories. Seaplanes because of their pontoons for flotation are just not as maneuverable as their land based counterparts. They are heavier and less aerodynamic so getting out of the way of an impending collision can be difficult.

The loss of so many people is beyond description as would be the loss of just one person.

Safe flying is no accident and perhaps some guidance from the FAA and careful training to use all available means to avoid a mid-air collision will be helpful in the future but for now sorting out the liability for the mishap and getting compensation for the victims is a matter of first importance. 

Arthur Alan Wolk

July 7th, 2020

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Pete Parish was 100 years old when he passed away last evening. He led a full life everyone would say and be correct. He was a Marine Corp. pilot, President of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, father, husband and co-founder of the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum.

He was an extraordinary pilot, a modest man, and loyal to his fellow wingmen in the Cat Flight. I remember Pete sitting in my hospital room for hours while I convalesced following the crash of my jet fighter.

So, while I and my other Cat Flight colleagues mourn Pete’s passing, we are thinking no doubt how blessed we all were to know Pete, to fly with Pete and to be the recipients of his generosity and sage advice.

Rest in peace Pete.

Arthur 7/2/20

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