NTSB's Probable Cause of Maryland State Police Medevac Helicopter Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced at a public board meeting today that the probable cause of the September 27, 2008 crash of a Maryland State Police medevac Aerospatiale (Eurocopter) near Andrews Air Force Base was primarily due to pilot error.

The pilot, one flight paramedic, one field provider, and one of two automobile accident patients being transported were killed. The other patient being transported survived with serious injuries from the helicopter accident. 

The family of the patient killed in the helicopter crash, Ashley Younger, attended today's hearing with their helicopter crash attorney, Cara Luther of Washington, D.C.  Ms. Luther stated that “Ashley’s family is pleased that the NTSB appears to have thoroughly investigated this accident to determine its cause. They are hopeful that all of the recommendations that the NTSB has made to the various organizations are fully adopted without further delay so that this type of crash never occurs again.”

The NTSB found that the pilot failed to adhere to instrument approach procedures when he did not prevent the helicopter's descent at the MDA (minimum descent altitude). Furthermore, the Board concluded that the pilot likely became preoccupied with looking for the ground, which he could not identify before impact because of the lack of external visual cues.

The NTSB noted several contributing factors to the cause of the accident:
  • the pilot's limited recent instrument flight experience
  • the lack of adherence to effective risk management procedures by the Maryland State Police
  • the pilot's inadequate assessment of the weather
  • the failure of the Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control (PCT) controller to provide the current Andrews Air Force Base weather observation to the pilot
  • the increased workload on the pilot due to inadequate FAA air traffic control handling by the Ronald Reagan National Airport Tower and PCT controllers