Pilot failure likely caused ’07 collision of two Phoenix ENG copters

The likely reason two newsgathering helicopters in Phoenix collided, crashed and killed all occupants onboard July 27, 2007, was the failure of both pilots to see and avoid the each other’s aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board has determined.

In releasing findings Jan. 29 of its investigation into the midair collision of ENG helicopters from KTVK-TV and U.S. Helicopters, under contract to KNXV-TV, the safety board concluded that both pilots’ reporting and tracking duties as they covered a police chase from the air immediately prior to the collision likely prevented them from recognizing how close they were to each other.

The NTSB also made 10 specific recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of the Phoenix midair collision aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future.

Among the recommendations:

  • Require ENG operators to assign reporting duties to someone other than the pilot, unless it can be shown the pilot’s workload can be managed under all conditions.
  • Require the use of high-visibility blade paint schemes and anticollision lights.
  • Develop standards for helicopter cockpit electronic traffic advisory systems to alert pilots to the presence of other aircraft in the area.
  • Require ENG operators to install such equipment once developed.
  • Host annual ENG helicopter conferences by metro region to discuss safety and operational issues.

The Phoenix crash killed KNXV-TV pilot Craig Smith and photographer Rick Krolak and KTVK-TV pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox. The crews were covering a police chase of a reported stolen truck.