Members of the investigation team, which included the NTSB chief scientist, an NTSB structures engineer, an NTSB materials engineer, a BFU accredited representative and a representative from the FAA's Rotorcraft Directorate, conducted a thorough review of Eurocopter's study and concurred with the findings of the study as presented.
The 63-year-old PIC held a commercial pilot certificate for rotorcraft-helicopter, had a valid second-class medical and had accumulated over 11,000 hr. flight time, 824 hr. of that in the EC135 T1. He had flown 13 hr. in the preceding 90 days. All ground and flight training records indicate satisfactory performance with no deficiencies noted. However, two American Eurocopter instructor pilots who had provided the pilot with EC135 T1 instruction from 2002 through 2008 told the NTSB of concerns they had with statements the accident pilot had made during training.
The first instructor pilot provided the accident pilot with his initial transition ground school training in 2002, followed by recurrent training in 2003, 2004 and 2006. The instructor pilot reported that during his training in 2002, the accident pilot displayed an abnormally high degree of pressure to accomplish flights from the helicopter's owner and that he was visibly shaken when discussing the amount of pressure he received.
The instructor stated that during the week he spent training the accident pilot, the conversation regarding his employer often turned to the difficulties he endured to keep flights on schedule.
The instructor revealed that the accident pilot stated that it would not be uncommon to fly the helicopter's owner from Seattle to his home on Vashon Island, Wash., when the weather conditions at night were so poor that they would follow the ferryboat lights to navigate across the bay under foggy conditions.
The first instructor pilot also reported that in 2004 he provided the accident pilot recurrent training after an incident that damaged the helicopter. He told investigators that the accident pilot stated that he was to fly to Vashon Island to pick up the owner's wife to fly her to the Seattle airport. After landing on the island, the accident pilot left the helicopter's engines running and the controls locked while he loaded the passengers and bags. When he attempted takeoff, the cyclic control lock was still engaged, which resulted in damage to the tail boom following the attempted landing. The instructor pilot added that the accident pilot admitted to him that he was flustered because he had to hurry and depart as soon as possible.
The second instructor pilot, who provided instruction to the accident pilot during summer 2008, stated that he remembered the pilot commenting about how the helicopter's owner dominated the cockpit duties before a flight. The accident pilot revealed that when the owner flew (even though he was not rotary-wing rated), he would get in the cockpit, flip switches and go. The instructor reported that he felt that the accident pilot was intimidated by the owner and would not insist that proper aircraft procedures be followed.
In a submission to investigators, the chief pilot for flight operations at the owner's company characterized the accident pilot as a Vietnam-era combat pilot who had also flown for the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, a very demanding region of the U.S. in which to fly. Additionally, he characterized the accident pilot as a conscientious and professional pilot in every sense of the word, and a person who would not be intimidated.
The Owner (Fixed-Wing) Pilot
The owner-pilot was 64 years old. He sat in the right seat with his daughter on his lap. He possessed a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land issued in 1967. Investigators could find no recent medical certificate. Additionally, the investigation failed to reveal any information about the owner-pilot's training or total flight hours. Certainly, he was not rated to fly helicopters. When asked if the owner ever flew the helicopter, the chief pilot responded that it was common for him to fly and that, “He liked to fly.”