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Grand Canyon helicopter crash: Fleet to retrofit fuel systems to prevent fires [复制链接]

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发表于 2018-3-2 12:18:05 |显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 XLC 于 2018-3-2 12:24 编辑



Two weeks after one of its helicopters crashed in the Grand Canyon, erupting into flames and killing five passengers, Papillon Airways apparently plans to install systems to prevent other helicopters from catching fire.

The Nevada-based air tourism company has agreed to buy 40 crash-resistant fuel systems and install them in its fleet of Airbus-made helicopters, according to an announcement from a fuel-system manufacturer.

Retrofitting those systems would bring Papillon's Airbus A350 and EC130 helicopters into compliance with a 24-year-old safety regulation.

StandardAero, a Scottsdale aviation company, said in a statement that Papillon would retrofit its tour fleet with fuel systems that had been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration in December.

Papillon Airways did not say if the Airbus EC130 B4 helicopter that crashed had been equipped with a crash-resistant fuel system, or whether the crash influenced its decision to purchase the systems. Papillon declined requests for comment, and a public-relations firm hired by the company referred questions to StandardAero.

In an email, StandardAero spokesman Kyle Hultquist said the company had been in discussions with "many operators" throughout the system's development. Hultquist would not say whether the company discussed crash-resistant fuel systems with Papillon before the crash.



Why helicopters burn
Crash-resistant fuel systems are designed to cushion the blow of a crash, bending and flexing rather than breaking open. That keeps fuel from spilling and turning survivable crashes into piles of flaming metal.

The rules also specify "self-sealing breakaway couplings" that prevent leaks if hoses or other connections are severed during a crash, and tank attachments that deform rather than rupture upon impact.

The FAA has required the systems in all new models of helicopter since 1994.

But a loophole in that rule allows helicopters designed before 1994 to keep their old systems. So many newer single-engine helicopters — often higher-tech versions of older models — slip through.

So even after a string of high-profile helicopter crashes in which people aboard were burned to death, few helicopters had the systems.

In 2015, when two medical helicopter crashes led to fatal fires, Airbus — which had built both aircraft — did not yet have a retrofit system available for at least some of its existing models. That year, the NTSB issued a specific recommendation that the FAA urge all owners to update their existing fuel systems "as soon as practicable."

The systems can be expensive. Gary C. Robb, a Kansas City attorney who specializes in helicopter crash litigation, said a typical crash-resistant fuel system could cost between $40,000 and $60,000. A StandardAero spokesman said the company does not disclose the cost of its systems.

The NTSB noted in a 2015 report that only about 15 percent of the nation's helicopters had fuel systems that met the 1994 requirements.

Fire after the crash
Like many things about the Feb. 10 crash in the canyon, the cause of its massive post-crash fire is under further investigation.

But the wreckage clearly caught fire. Eyewitness photographs showed the wreckage in flames.

Passengers Becky Dobson, 27; Stuart Hill, 30; and Jason Hill, 31; died in the crash. The Mohave County Medical Examiner's office attributed their deaths to "multiple injuries due to a helicopter crash,” declining to say the extent to which burns or other injuries played a role in their deaths.

Pilot Scott Booth, 42, and passengers Ellie Milward, 29; Jonathan Udall, 31; and Jennifer Barham, 39, were hospitalized with severe burns and other injuries. Milward and Udall have since died.

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board did not speculate as to the cause of the crash or the flames, though it noted most of the wreckage was consumed by the post-crash fire.

The model in the Grand Canyon crash was an older EC130 B4, the NTSB confirmed. Many existing EC130s, experts say, use the old fuel systems.

That leads some to question why it has taken so long for retrofits like the one announced for Papillon's fleet.

"Why now? Why not 20 years ago?" said Robb, the Kansas City attorney. "The technology is not new."

"What it shows is that it takes multiple deaths and horrible burn injuries to get this injuries to act," Robb said. "Which is a crying shame."



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