Helicopters Collided On Approach To Flagstaff Airport
Editor's Note: Below is the unedited text of the
National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report, released
this week, regarding the June 29 midair collision of two emergency
medical service helicopters near a hospital in Flagstaff, AZ.
As ANN reported, four persons
onboard one Bell 407 and three aboard the second 407 were killed
when the aircraft collided as both were on approach to land at
Flagstaff Medical Center.
Video footage of the collision, obtained from a parking lot
surveillance camera at the hospital, shows one helicopter
approaching from the north, with the other coming in from the
south. Visual conditions prevailed at the time of the crash, with
partial cloud cover and light winds reported.
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, June 29, 2008 in Flagstaff, AZ
Aircraft: Bell 407, registration: N407MJ
Injuries: 7 Fatal.
This is preliminary information,
subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this
report will be corrected when the final report has been
On June 29, 2008, at 1547 mountain
standard time, a Bell 407 emergency medical service (EMS)
helicopter, N407GA, and a Bell 407 EMS helicopter, N407MJ, collided
in mid air while approaching the Flagstaff Medical Center helipad
(3AZ0), Flagstaff, Arizona. Both helicopters were destroyed.
N407GA's commercial pilot, flight nurse, and patient sustained
fatal injuries; and N407MJ's commercial pilot, flight paramedic,
flight nurse, and patient sustained fatal injuries. N407GA was
operated by Air Methods Corp., Englewood, Colorado, and registered
to Flagstaff Medical Center, Flagstaff, Arizona. N407MJ was
operated by Classic Helicopter Services, Page, Arizona, and
registered to M&J Leisure, L.L.C., Ogden, Utah. Visual
meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight plans were
filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 air
medical flights. N407GA's flight departed the Flagstaff Pulliam
Airport (FLG), Flagstaff, at 1544, and N407MJ's flight departed the
Grand Canyon National Park Service South Rim helibase, Tusayan,
Arizona, at 1517.
At 1516, N407GA, call sign Angel 1,
contacted Guardian Air dispatch at FLG and reported that they were
departing Winslow, Arizona, with four people on board; the pilot,
the two flight nurses and the patient. The pilot stated that his
estimated time en route was 25 minutes and he was either going to
land at FLG or proceed direct to the Flagstaff Medical Center
(FMC). He was not sure if he would be at the proper weight to land
with enough power to execute a safe out of ground effect hover. At
1519, the Guardian Air dispatch transportation coordinator
contacted the FMC that Angel 1 was inbound to the helipad in
approximately 23 minutes.
At 1519, N407MJ, call sign Lifeguard
2, contacted their communications center and reported that they had
departed the south rim of the Grand Canyon and were en route to the
FMC with an estimated time en route of 32 minutes, and four people
on board; the pilot, the flight nurse, the flight paramedic, and
the patient. About a minute later, the captain on Angel 1 called
Guardian Air dispatch and reported that they were going to "drop
one" at FLG before proceeding to Flagstaff Medical Center.
At 1523, the dispatcher on duty at
Classic Helicopter Service contacted Guardian Air dispatch and
reported that Lifeguard 2 was en route to the FMC and would be
arriving from the north. He also reported that it would be a "cold
drop," and the emergency department at the hospital had already
been notified. The Guardian Air dispatch transportation coordinator
then informed the Classic dispatcher that Angel 1 was also en route
and would be landing at Flagstaff Medical Center in 20 minutes.
At the end of that call, the Guardian
Air dispatch transportation coordinator called FMC and stated that
Lifeguard 2 would also be landing at the hospital in "about 28
minutes...and they know about mine coming in." The person who
answered the phone in the emergency department responded, "All
right." The transport coordinator then contacted the captain of
Angel 1 and informed him that Lifeguard 2 would also be landing at
Flagstaff Medical Center in approximately 28 minutes. The captain
responded, "Roger will be looking for 'em thanks."
At 1532, the captain of Lifeguard 2
contacted the Classic Helicopter Service communication center,
provided a position report and said that they were 15 minutes from
landing at FMC. The dispatcher on duty responds, "Comm center
copies all sir...I'll talk to you on the ground in 15 minutes,
1532." This was the last recorded communication from N407MJ's
Also at 1532, the captain on Angel 1
contacted Guardian Air dispatch and reported that they were 10
minutes from landing at FLG. At 1544, the captain for Angel 1
contacted Guardian Air dispatch and stated, "Control Angel 1 if you
haven't figured it out we've uh landed at the...airport departed
and we're about two minutes out of the hospital." The
transportation coordinator responded and copied the transmission.
This was the last recorded communication from N407GA's pilot.
A review of the recorded transmissions
made between both medical crews and the hospital revealed that both
of the medical crews contacted the emergency department at FMC and
provided medical reports on their respective patients. At the time
Angel 1 contacted the hospital, they provided an estimated time of
arrival in 15 minutes. The Classic Helicopter Services medical crew
reported an estimated time of arrival of 18 minutes. The hospital
staff that received the phone calls from both aircraft did not
provide any information or warning about the other helicopter that
was also en route to the Flagstaff Medical Center helipad.
Several people witnessed the collision
of the helicopters as they approached the hospital helipad and
reported seeing both helicopters descending into wooded terrain
about 1/4 mile from the heliport. There was a small fire noted
rising from the hilly terrain, followed by a loud explosion about
10 minutes after the collision.
A surveillance camera, mounted on a
parking garage at the hospital, captured the collision on digital
video. The video depicted one helicopter approaching from north and
one helicopter approaching from the south, and shows both aircraft
descending after the collision. The video has been sent to the NTSB
Vehicle Recorders laboratory, Washington, DC, for further
The accident site was located in a
partially wooded, rocky mesa, approximately 1/4 mile east of the
FMC helipad at an elevation of 7,060 feet mean sea level. N407GA's
main wreckage was located on the top of the mesa in a rocky, grass
terrain; and N407MJ's main wreckage was located in wooden terrain.
The main wreckages of both helicopters came to rest approximately
300 feet apart from each other. The debris area, approximately 1/4
mile in diameter, contained fragmented sections of main rotor
blades, plexiglass, and fiberglass. N407GA was partially consumed
by post-impact fire and N407MJ did not a post-impact fire. N407GA
experienced a secondary post-impact explosion approximately 2
minutes after the accident. Three first responders sustained minor
injuries during the explosion.
At the time of the accident, the
weather was reported as partly cloudy and winds were light and