Texting Arrives in the Cockpit

This article appeared today on avweb.com

“An accident synopsis from the NTSB identifies the pilot’s personal texting as a contributing factor in the Aug. 26, 2011, crash of a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter near Mosby, Mo., that killed all aboard. The flight was operated as a medical services mission flown in VFR conditions, carrying three crew and one patient. It crashed due to fuel starvation “about 1 nm short” of its planned refueling stop, according to the NTSB. The NTSB says that “the pilot missed three opportunities to detect” the aircraft’s low fuel state and was engaged in texting before and during the flight portion of the mission.

“According to the NTSB, the pilot failed to recognize the low fuel condition during a preflight check and the before-takeoff checklist, and then reported the wrong fuel level after takeoff. The accident took place on the second leg of the flight, which the pilot undertook “despite knowing the helicopter had insufficient fuel reserves.” When the helicopter’s turbine flamed out, the pilot then failed to maintain the rotor energy necessary for autorotation and the aircraft impacted the ground in a 40-degree nose-down attitude “at a high rate of descent with a low rotor rpm.” Aside from texting, the NTSB also cited “degraded performance due to fatigue,” the operator’s fuel policies, and lack of practice regarding engine failure at cruise speed.”

Accident investigations always contain an examination of the event sequence leading up to the crash. In this case, the potential for fuel starvation existed before the pilot took off for the first leg of the mission, but his preoccupation with a device that has no business being in the cockpit helped kill four people.

Stupidity abounds in our addiction to handheld devices that transport us from where we are to where we might rather be. Why doesn’t someone develop an anti-idiot app?

Now that would be useful for a change.

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