Pilots of two electronic news gathering (ENG) helicopters that collided in July 2007 while reporting a real-time police chase in suburban Phoenix on live TV failed to use required visual flight rules "see and avoid” tactics, the US National Transportation Safety Board has ruled.
Contributing to accident, which killed a pilot and photographer aboard each Eurocopter AS350B2, were job duties that required the pilots to perform simultaneous reporting and visual tracking duties for the TV stations. The NTSB also found that a lack of formal procedures for Phoenix-area ENG pilots during such chase operations contributed to the collision.
Among the 10 recommendations the Board made to the Federal Aviation Administration during a 28 January hearing on the crash is a requirement that ENG operators assign reporting responsibilities to someone other than the flying pilot “unless it can be determined that the pilot's workload remains manageable under all conditions.” Other recommendations include developing letters of agreement for aircraft to specify minimum horizontal and vertical separation requirements, and requiring ENG operators to use high-visibility blade paint schemes and improved anti-collision strobe lights on their aircraft.
"A pilot's first and primary responsibility is to operate the aircraft in a safe manner," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker at the NTSB meeting. "Assigning someone else, other than the flying pilot, to perform the reporting duties in ENG operations and improved technology to assist pilots in distinguishing between the shape of airborne objects operating below them and the surrounding terrain will prevent accidents like this from occurring again," he added.
The video below was being taken by one of the helicopters when the collision occurred. Note: Content is graphic.