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Jan 29, 2013 2:07 PM by Associated Press

NTSB: Mechanic checklists a lesson in copter crash

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Work checklists and avoiding overworking aircraft mechanics and inspectors emerged Tuesday as key recommendations from federal crash investigators who spent 13 months combing through wreckage and records after a sightseeing helicopter crash killed five people outside Las Vegas in December 2011.

"A checklist can be a crucial reminder and especially helpful when we are tired or distracted or new to a job," National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said after the five-member board reached its conclusions in Washington, D.C.

"Look what checklists have done for safety in the cockpit," Hersman said. "They can make similar lifesaving contributions on the hangar floor. They are a backstop to human error."

The board cited "inadequate maintenance" for the fatal error in the crash of the Sundance Helicopters Inc. during a twilight tour of Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River.

Sundance chief executive Bob Engelbrecht issued a statement Tuesday promising to study the NTSB report, review the board findings and recommendations, and "look to further improve our processes and procedures."

A crucial lock nut worked loose in the rotor mechanism, causing the aircraft to wobble into a sudden climb and fall into a rocky ravine some 14 miles east of Las Vegas, the NTSB said. Most of the six-seat Aerospatiale AS350-B2 aircraft was pulverized to small bits and burned.

Killed were Lovish Bhanot, 28, and Anupama Bhola, 26, a honeymooning couple from India, Delwin and Tamara Chapman, both 49, a couple from Utica, Kan., celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, and the 31-year-old pilot, Landon Nield.

"I know what happened to my brother can't be changed," Nield's sister, Angalena Adams said Tuesday. She monitored the NTSB hearing from her home in Cedar City, Utah.

"But I hope Sundance has fixed the problems that were wrong," Adams said. "The choices they make to overwork their workers can affect other people's lives."

Gary Robb a Kansas City, Mo., lawyer who filed wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of both the Kansas and India families, was in court Tuesday and wasn't immediately available for comment.

Sundance was acquired for $44 million in December by Air Methods Corp., a publicly traded Denver-based emergency air medical transportation company. Sundance has a fleet of 22 helicopters based at McCarran International Airport focusing mostly on Grand Canyon helicopter tours. It also provides firefighting, air lift, natural resource surveying and photography operations.

In his statement Tuesday, Engelbrecht maintained the company had an excellent safety record and made safety its top priority.

"Based upon the investigation to date and our own internal reviews, we have already initiated a number of safety improvements," he said.

Hersman noted there were no flight data or cockpit voice recorders, no onboard cameras, no air traffic control tapes and no eyewitnesses to the crash.

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