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NTSB releases preliminary report on Bell Helicopter crash

A Bell 525 Relentless mock-up photographed in a hangar at Bell Helicopter in 2012. (Special to the Star-Telegram Bob Booth)
A Bell 525 Relentless mock-up photographed in a hangar at Bell Helicopter in 2012. (Special to the Star-Telegram Bob Booth) Special to the Star-Telegram

The National Transportation Safety Board officially released its preliminary report on the fatal July 6 crash of a Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless, saying the rotorcraft broke up in midflight.

The initial report, which was only four sentences long, said the developmental flight test was conducted during visual meteorological conditions, meaning that the pilots had good visibility and weather to operate the aircraft.

“On July 6, 2016, about 1148 central daylight time, an experimental Bell 525 helicopter, N525TA, broke up inflight and impacted terrain near Italy, Texas. The two pilots onboard were fatally injured and the helicopter was destroyed,” the report said.

The agency’s investigation will continue for several months with another report on the crash likely to be released in nine to 12 months, the NTSB said.

Investigators previously said it appeared the main rotor struck the front and back of the helicopter, causing it to break up in midflight. According to radar data, the helicopter was traveling about 229 mph at an altitude of about 2,000 feet immediately before the crash.

Bell Helicopter is testing computerized flight controls, known as fly-by-wire, on its new 525 Relentless. The aircraft can seat up to 20 people and is the first commercial helicopter being developed with fly-by-wire. In May, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice proposing special conditions to establish safety levels for the helicopter design.

The company had expected to complete the certification process for the 525 Relentless and deliver its first helicopters to customers in 2017, but the crash has delayed the certification.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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