| April 9
April 9 The pilot of a medical helicopter that
crashed in Missouri in 2011, killing all four people on board,
was distracted by personal text messages that day and during
the fatal flight, federal safety investigators said on Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board found that the text
messages were likely a contributing factor in the crash of the
medical air ambulance and prompted officials to recommend new
prohibitions on the use of portable electronic devices by flight
"This investigation highlighted what is a growing concern
across transportation - distraction and the myth of
multi-tasking," Deborah Hersman, head of the NTSB, said in a
statement released with the board's report.
"When operating heavy machinery, whether it's a personal
vehicle or an emergency medical services helicopter, the focus
must be on the task at hand: safe transportation," Hersman said.
The Eurostar AS350 helicopter crashed near an airport in
Mosby, Missouri, in August 2011 after running out of fuel while
transporting a patient from one hospital to another about 60
miles away. Killed were the pilot, flight nurse, flight
paramedic and the patient.
The NTSB found that the probable causes of the accident were
the pilot's decision to take off despite critically low fuel
levels, along with his inability to perform a critical flight
maneuver after the engine flameout that followed when the
helicopter ran out of fuel.
But the board said cell phone records showed that the pilot
sent and received multiple personal text messages throughout the
day, including while the helicopter was in flight and during a
phone call to a communication specialist about whether to
undertake the mission.
The NTSB said there was no evidence the pilot was texting at
the time that the engine failed, but said that doing so at all
while he was airborne violated his company's cell phone use
Among the nine recommendations that the NTSB made were that
flight crew members be prohibited from using portable electronic
devices while at a duty station on the flight deck while the
aircraft was being operated.
The board also recommended to the Federal Aviation
Administration that pilot training programs incorporate training
on the dangers of distraction by portable electronic devices.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and