NTSB Releases Alaska State Trooper Helicopter Crash Documents

February 5, 2014

The National Transportation Safety Board has released interviews and other information collected as part of its investigation into the fatal crash of an Alaska State Trooper helicopter known as Helo-1.

The approximately 2,000 pages of documents released Monday draws no conclusions as to the cause of the crash of the Eurocopter AS350 B3 that killed pilot Mel Nading, Alaska State Trooper Tage Toll and snowmobiler Carl Ober on March 30, KTUU-TV reported. A report is expected later this year.

The helicopter left Anchorage at 9:17 p.m. in response to a distress call from Ober, who had injured his ribs near Talkeetna and was not dressed for a night outdoors.

Nading flew 80 miles north and picked up Toll at Talkeetna to act as a spotter. They located Ober and took off again but crashed after about two minutes.

GPS readings indicated the helicopter flew south but reached an altitude of just 200 feet and a ground speed of 16 knots, or 18.4 mph.

“The helicopter then entered a climbing left turn which continued through 360 degrees; this was followed by a series of erratic turns, climbs, and descents,” NTSB officials wrote.

The weather was reported as scattered clouds at 2,000 and 6,000 feet with intermittent light rain and snow that reduced visibility to four miles. Nading’s logbooks indicated nearly 10,700 hours of flight time, including almost 8,500 in helicopters, but only a few with instrument flight experience, the documents said.

“The total helicopter instrument experience documented in the logbooks was 38.3 hours of which 0.5 hours was actual instrument time,” NTSB officials wrote.

Nading was paid overtime for taking such rescue missions at night and was usually willing to take those assignments, according to interviews with co-workers.

His flying record included several accidents, including one on April 21, 2006, as Helo-1 during took off from a remote lake across Cook Inlet from Nikiski.

“(Nading) stated that just after takeoff, as the helicopter transitioned from a hover to forward flight, blowing snow from the helicopter’s main rotor momentarily reduced his visibility, and he lost all visual reference with the surface,” NTSB officials wrote. “While he was attempting to regain a visual reference, the helicopter’s tail rotor guard and vertical stabilizer struck the surface of the lake, and he elected to abort the takeoff.”

The crash caused no injuries but damaged the helicopter. An NTSB report determined pilot error was the cause, that Nading had not made an instrument takeoff and that he had worked 18 days straight.

Nading’s colleagues generally considered him a professional and by-the-book pilot, according to the documents. An autopsy concluded he had taken no drugs or alcohol.

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