Helo 1 (Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

Helo 1 (Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

The State Department of Public Safety is reviewing its safety procedures following a helicopter crash that took the lives of three men in March of last year.

A helicopter crash that took the lives of three men in March of last year is still under investigation. The Alaska State Trooper’s Helo – 1 crashed near Talkeetna during a rescue mission, killing its pilot, a state Trooper and one civilian in early 2013.

 Trooper director Colonel Jim Cockrell says in light of the accident, the state Department of Public Safety is reviewing its safety procedures. He says the National Transportation Safety Board has pointed out some concerns that need to be addressed:

“Including reviewing all our internal policies regarding our use of our aircraft with our department pilots. We’re hiring a safety manager or safety officer to oversee all aspects of safety at the aircraft section. We’ve hired a new aircraft supervisor with an extensive aviation background, and the same with a new commissioned lieutenant we put in the aircraft section. “

 Cockrell says the NTSB recommendations are not directly related to last year’s accident. In addition to the three new hires, the Troopers are now evaluating aviation training programs, and are making changes in risk assessment. The decision to send Trooper aircraft out on a mission will no longer be on one person’s shoulders:

“The issue is to ensure that we have some oversight on these missions to make sure that we are not taking undue risk. And we’re not asking the pilot to make that final decision. And, sometimes, people’s lives are definitely at risk, and it’s hard for our personnel who’s joined the department to provide public service, it’s hard for them sometimes to say ‘no’ and that’s why we want to make sure that we have someone outside, the if you want to call it the loop, that makes the decision if it’s worth our risk to handle this call.”

Trooper helicopters are operated under the division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers, which provides the department with 43 aircraft and 50 pilots.   Adjustments to the safety management system include installing real time satellite tracking devices in aircraft, which allow monitoring of all aircraft 24/7 by cellphone.

 Troopers are working with the NTSB to determine the cause of the 2013 Helo 1 crash, but results are inconclusive at this time. The NTSB has released some 2,000 pages of documents related to the Helo 1 investigation on the agency’s website.    The night-time crash took the lives of pilot Mel Nading, Trooper Tage Toll and snowmachiner Carl Ober.  A report on the crash’s probable cause is expected in late summer.

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