Report Cites Pilot Inexperience in Crash that Killed Stock Car Driver
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal investigation of a helicopter accident that killed NASCAR driver Davey Allison found he had less than three hours of training on the chopper he crashed at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama last July.
Although Allison had logged 54 hours total flight time in helicopters, he’d had only 2.8 hours of instruction in the Hughes 369HS helicopter before the accident last July 12, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
No evidence of mechanical failure was cited in the 65-page ″factual″ report. The board will issue a final report in several months which will describe what it believes was the probable cause of the crash, NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said Wednesday.
Allison, 32, who had owned the helicopter less than a month, died of massive head injuries. His only passenger, veteran race car driver Red Farmer, was hospitalized with broken ribs and a fractured arm and collarbone.
Allison had been attempting to land the 2,500-pound helicopter in a parking lot at the speedway when it suddenly rose and began to spin out of control, witnesses said. Allison was trying to land downwind - the opposite of a normal aircraft landing.
A licensed airplane pilot, Allison had received his helicopter rating a year before the crash. But 45 of the 54 hours of helicopter flight time he had logged when he died were in the smaller and slower Robinson R-22 helicopter, the NTSB said.
John Corley, a flight instructor for Southeastern Helicopters in Saluda, S.C., who gave Allison the 2.8 hours of training, told the NTSB that Allison demonstrated ″about average″ pilot skills for someone who had not flown a helicopter in six months and had limited experience. They did not practice downwind landing during the training June 21, 1993, Corley said.
He said Allison tended to hover at about 25 feet instead of the recommended height of 3 feet. As a result of having trained on the Robinson R-22, Allison also had a propensity to make his approaches too fast and shallow, Corley said.
Farmer told an investigator this had been his first ride in a helicopter, so he was not sure what to expect. He said they approached the parking lot at a normal angle. The craft hovered at about 6 inches to a foot above the ground, then Allison attempted to turn to the right and the helicopter ″shot up very quickly,″ he said. Then the ride became very violent, said Farmer.
″I saw sky. I saw ground, and I said, ’Hold it, Davey,‴ Farmer said.
The helicopter began to climb, Farmer said. Then it banked sharply to the left and struck the ground and a 10-foot fence.
″When we stopped, I yelled ’Davey, let’s get out of this thing before it catches on fire,‴ Farmer told the investigator.
Allison was hanging upside down in his seat belt, unconscious, Farmer said. ″I did not want to release his belt because he would fall. I could not hold him up and release because my arm was broke.″
Farmer said he kicked out the front window and escaped.
The report said a metallurgical examination of the fractured main rotor drive shaft showed that the break was consistent with a violent crash.
An examination of the tail rotor pedal stems showed overstress fractures, but with no evidence of pre-existing cracking, the report said.
The pilot’s throttle was in the full open position, it said.