NTSB: Atlanta police helicopter made no distress call - CBS46 News

NTSB: Atlanta police helicopter made no distress call before crash

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The National Transportation Safety Board released preliminary information on Wednesday that shows that air traffic control never received a distress call from the police helicopter that crashed on Nov. 3, killing two officers.

Pilot Richard Halford and Tactical Flight Officer Shawn Smiley were searching for a missing 9-year-old boy, near Martin Luther King Junior Drive SW and Hamilton East Holmes Drive NW, when the helicopter crashed.

Here is the entire statement from the NTSB:

On November 3, 2012, about 2245 eastern daylight time, a Hughes OH-6A, N368PD, was substantially damaged following a collision with power lines and terrain while maneuvering at Atlanta, Georgia. The certificated commercial pilot and a pilot-rated police officer were fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to and operated by the Atlanta Police Department as a public use flight. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) at 2224.

The purpose of the flight was to support ground police personnel in locating a missing child. The search area was about 6 nautical miles north-northwest of ATL. The helicopter was observed on radar, maneuvering, immediately prior to the accident. The helicopter was not communicating with air traffic control at the time of the accident and no distress calls from the flight crew were noted.

Examination of the accident site showed the helicopter collided with wires at the top of a 42-foot-high power pole near the intersection of two roads. The main wreckage came to rest in the center of the road adjacent to the power pole. A post-crash fire ensued and the fuselage and cabin sustained substantial fire damage. All main rotor blades were accounted for within the area of the main wreckage. The tail boom of the helicopter was separated from the fuselage was found adjacent to the main wreckage. The tail rotor blades remained attached to the tail rotor gearbox. Signatures consistent with wire contact were found on the tail boom and on one main rotor blade.

Utility company crews replaced the wires and provided the damaged parts to the investigation team. The wires showed evidence of arcing and impact damage. Support structure for the wires and ceramic insulators were also damaged and broken.

The 2053 surface weather observation for Fulton County Airport (FTY), located 3 miles northwest of the accident sire, included sky clear, calm wind, with visibility 10 statute miles or greater.

Atlanta police also released 911 audio recordings and radio transmissions recorded the night of the accident.

The last transmission from Halford was a one-second inaudible tone. The communication then goes quiet. According to the 911 tapes the helicopter crashed at 10:45 p.m. Officers assisting the search on the ground immediately started asking if anyone was in contact with the helicopter crew known as Phoenix.

"Is anybody on-scene talking to anyone from Phoenix?" an officer asked.  "Is anybody physically talking to Phoenix right now?"

A 911 caller reported seeing a fiery crash.

"We were leaving. We (saw) a helicopter, and it was like going crazy, like it was trying to catch its balance. And I saw it just went face down into a CVS," the caller said. "The people that's in the helicopter - I know they are hurt cause I see the fire. It's on fire, it's on fire, it's on fire! Everything is on fire."

The NTSB estimates that the investigation into what caused the crash could take up to a year to complete.

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