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Static Lines Cause Crash

by John M. White |

Some say we live in a litigious society, and that way too many lawsuits are filed in our overloaded court system. However, sometimes it makes a lot of sense, and in aviation accidents it seems there are always lawsuits. The problem is, though, aviation attorneys seem to sue everyone even remotely associated with the accident in question. Take, for example, a helicopter accident that happened on January 5th of this year near Redinger Lake in the Sierra Nevada foothills which resulted in 4 deaths. Apparently the helicopter's rotor struck a static line strung over some power lines which spanned a gorge in the mountains. One question that has arisen is the responsibility for the power company to place warning devices on those static lines.
The preliminary report by the NTSB describes the accident, in part, as follows: On January 5, 2010, at 1209 Pacific standard time, a Bell 206B, N5016U, collided with power lines near Auberry, California. The helicopter was registered to Palm Springs Aviation, Inc., and operated by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) as a public-use, deer surveying flight. The certificated commercial pilot and three passengers were killed. The helicopter was destroyed by post crash fire. The local flight departed Trimmer Heliport, Trimmer, California, at 1006. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site, and a company flight plan had been filed. Aviation Lawyers Suit Heli Operator The main wreckage came to rest on the valley floor of Willow Creek, at an approximate elevation of 1,200 feet mean sea level (msl). The elevation of the valley peaks directly to the east and west of the site was about 2,500 feet msl. The bases of the power line towers were at an approximate elevation of 1,600 feet msl, and separated by a span of 2,900 feet. The lines consisted of three parallel power transmission lines, which hung between the towers about 3/4 of the distance from their bases. The tops of the towers were spanned by two parallel, 'static' ground lines. Examination of the static line to the south revealed that it had severed approximately midspan, and had become entangled in the remaining lines. Examination of the main rotor blades revealed leading edge gouges, with abrasion marks consistent in appearance with the severed static line. The helicopter was equipped with a wire strike protection system. Examination of the systems cutting surfaces revealed them to be sharp and free of scratches, gouges, and abrasions. Enter the aviation accident attorneys. The family of one of the victims has filed a lawsuit naming both Southern California Edison, the power company, and Landells Aviation, the helicopter owner/operator, claiming that a grounding wire negligently strung 100 feet above the power lines caused the crash. According to the aviation lawyer grounding wires, which are also known as static lines, are within a few feet of the power lines. In this case, however, they were 100 feet above the power lines, and they were not properly marked with warning devices. The helicopter operator said that they were surprised to be sued as they lost their pilot in the accident too. The three California Department of Fish and Game employees were conducting a deer survey in a mountainous area when the helicopter crashed near the confluence of the San Joaquin River and Willow Creek, just downstream of Redinger Lake. The aviation attorney said Southern California Edison was aware that aircraft fly in the vicinity of power lines to do animal surveys, as well as for search-and-rescue operations, and for fire suppression. While no one likes to be sued, one can certainly understand the concerns of the survivors of this unfortunate accident, and would hope that a just resolution to the lawsuits can occur. What do you think? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 When you get it right mighty beasts float up into the sky. When you get it wrong people die. — Roger Bacon, c. 1384.

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