Carson Crash Triggers Criminal Probe
The August 2008 fatal crash of a Carson Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N has triggered several federal criminal investigations and renewed scrutiny of private aircraft on public use contracts. Last week the National Transportation Safety Board found that the crash’s probable cause was primarily Carson’s intentional understatement of the helicopter’s empty weight and alteration of the power available chart to exaggerate the helicopter’s lift capability. It also faulted the U.S. Forest Service and the FAA for “insufficient oversight” and noted the role of non crash-resistant fuel tanks and seats as survivability factors on the 1965 helicopter. Nine died and four survived after the S-61, flying on a Forest Service contract, crashed and burned during liftoff from a California heli-spot during firefighting operations. Carson blames a rogue manager, who was later dismissed, for the document and weight discrepancies and says, while it disagrees with the NTSB’s findings, it is fully cooperating with law enforcement. Subsequent to the crash, Carson exited the Part 135 charter business to concentrate on its engineering and refurbishment activities.