SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Last summer’s crash of a South Carolina state police helicopter came about after a co-pilot left a control pedal locked and didn’t tell the pilot, federal investigators have determined.
The report says locking the pedal when leaving a helicopter parked with the engine running is apparently a common practice at the state agency, but the procedure is not approved by the aircraft manufacturer.
The State Law Enforcement Division two-seat helicopter crashed in Summerville on June 26 during a drug mission as a pilot tried to move the chopper to refuel it. The pilot suffered only minor injures, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.
A pilot and co-pilot had both exited the helicopter after it landed to refuel, but left the engine running. The co-pilot asked the pilot to then move the chopper closer to the fuel pumps because a fuel truck was not available, the report said.
About 7 feet (2 meters) off the ground, the helicopter began to spin and the pilot realized the co-pilot had locked one of his control pedals by removing it, turning it and reinstalling it and did not tell the pilot, federal investigators said.
The helicopter crashed, substantially damaging its rotors.
Someone identified in the report as “a senior leadership official” with SLED said locking the pedals is a common, unwritten practice at the agency when both pilots leave the helicopter and the engine is running, according to the report.
The unnamed pilot is also the aviation unit’s safety officer and said he didn’t agree with locking the pedals, but didn’t talk to management because of the agency’s culture, federal investigators said.
The manufacturer of the chopper, MD Helicopters, Inc., said locking the pedals is not an approved procedure, the NTSB said.
SLED did not immediately respond to the concerns raised in the report, which was issued Dec. 31.
The agency received permission in July to buy a replacement helicopter for $2 million.
SLED said it was the first helicopter crash since the agency was founded in 1947.
The findings of federal investigators weer first reported by WCSC-TV.