NTSB: Phone distraction, texting probable factors in fatal helicopter crash

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Washington – Distraction from cell phone use may have contributed to a fatal medical helicopter crash in August 2011, according to the synopsis of a National Transportation Safety Board report.

Cell phone records show the pilot placed and received multiple calls and text messages before and during a flight to deliver a patient between hospitals in Missouri. The crash occurred after the helicopter engine flamed out from fuel exhaustion within 1 mile of a refueling airport. The pilot’s distraction may have contributed to the errors and poor decision-making that caused the crash, NTSB stated. The pilot should have realized that the helicopter was under-fueled during the pre-trip inspection and should have delayed the trip, the board concluded.

NTSB recommended the Federal Aviation Administration prohibit personal use of portable electronic devices during safety-critical pre-flight activities, and incorporate information on the effects of distraction into pilot training programs.

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