Initial investigative report released on WBTV helicopter crash that killed 2 people

Jeff Siner/jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on Tuesday about the WBTV news helicopter crash in Charlotte that killed a meteorologist for the station and pilot just before Thanksgiving.

Meteorologist Jason Myers and Sky3 pilot Chip Tayag died in the crash on Nov. 22.

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In the report, an exact cause of what made the helicopter crash is not specified.

At 11:50 a.m., the helicopter departed from the WBTV helicopter pad and flew over I-77 for about five minutes. Seven minutes after take off, it crashed, the report said.

The report says the helicopter performed three 360 degree turns around a simulated news site for a training session, and during the third turn it went into a rapid descent and crashed.

The pilot was in contact with air traffic control during the flight, but never made a distress call, according to the report.

The helicopter landed about 20 feet from where it first crashed in a grassy area on I-77 southbound. There was no fire and portions of the landing gear were found within the initial impact crater, the report said.

NTSB is still investigating.

An investigation published in 2018 by the LA Times found that the helicopter model, the R44, is the most dangerous civilian helicopter model in the U.S. because of a problem that causes a sudden lack of control and a “mast bumping” phenomenon that can cause the aircraft to crash.

R44’s history of danger

The R44 helicopter is the most popularly sold civilian helicopter in the world. But it has a long and deadly history of crashes, according to an LA Times investigation.

The article says the Robinson R44s were involved in 42 fatal crashes in the U.S. from 2006 to 2016, more than any other civilian helicopter, according to National Transportation Safety Board accident reports.

“That translates to 1.6 deadly accidents per 100,000 hours flown — a rate nearly 50% higher than any other of the dozen most common civilian models whose flight hours are tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration,” according to their findings.

For Jason Myers’ family, his funeral is a time to mourn and a time to celebrate