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Bad Fuel, Pilot Error to Blame For February Helicopter Crash


Thomas R. Karlo--The Tech
Fuel impurities apparently caused a State Police helicopter to lose power and crash into the Harvard Yacht Club, across Memorial Drive from the Sloan School of Management, in February.

By A. Arif Husain
Associate News Editor

Impure fuel, pilot error, and poor maintenance were all in part responsible for the crash of a Massachusetts State Police helicopter along Memorial Drive in February, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board last week. All four people aboard were killed in the crash.

The case has been under investigation by the NTSB, the State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Mass-achusetts Aeronautics Commission since early tests found problems with the aircraft's fuel.

Middlesex County District Attorney Thomas F. Reilly examined the possibility that sabotage or foul play was involved, but found no evidence of malicious behavior, according to an article in The Boston Globe last week.

"There was no indication of any criminal act," Reilly said in the Globe.

Fuel tests showed that water levels in the fuel system were three to nine times the maximum allowable level. In addition, an unnecessary anti-icing agent was mistakenly added during fueling that day.

The fuel storage tank itself, at State Police headquarters in Framingham, was contaminated with rust and showed high water levels. Furthermore, records showed that no significant maintenance had been performed on the gas pump in several years; its filter was also found to have been of the wrong type.

Aside from these functional problems, fault was placed on insufficient training of the two State Police air wing pilots flying the craft. Neither pilot had been trained to land a helicopter during power loss, according to the NTSB report.

State Police spokesman Captain Robert Bird said that training procedures have been changed in response to the incident, and the faulty fueling facility in Framingham has been dismantled, according to the Globe.

Crash destroyed sailing pavilion

The American Eurocopter 350 aircraft crashed into the Harvard Yacht Club directly across from the Sloan School of Management, just minutes after it took off from the state's Nashua Street helipad. It was en-route to the air wing headquarters in Norwood.

The Yacht Club, located at 45 Memorial Drive, is one block away from MIT's Sailing Pavilion.

Members of the Physical Plant Rescue team and two MIT students were first on the scene.