Kreindler Investigating Crash of Bell 407 Helicopter in Coolbaugh Township, Pennsylvania
On October 9, 2012, about 8:00 p.m., a Bell 407, N108MF, operated by Air Charter Services
Helicopters LLC (ACS), was substantially damaged when it crashed into trees and terrain in Coolbaugh Township, PA, 1.3 miles from the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport (MPO).
The flight had last departed Elmira Corning Regional Airport (ELM), Elmira, NY, at about 6:45 p.m., and the intended destination was Westchester County Airport (HPN), White Plains, NY.
The weather conditions at MPO were 1 1/4 mile visibility in light rain and mist with a cloud ceiling of 200 feet above the ground. These conditions constitute employing Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), for which an instrument flight plan is required so that the flight can be conducted with reference to flight instruments in case it enters the clouds and/or the visibility is significantly reduced. No instrument flight plan, however, was filed.
MPO is located fairly south of a direct flight from Elmira to White Plains. This could suggest a deviation by the pilot in an attempt to avoid weather. MPO is at almost 2000 feet of elevation near mountainous terrain and can be challenging to navigate to during weather conditions such as were present at the time of the crash.
The proper procedure if a pilot finds himself in very limited weather conditions is to try to stay within visible-meteorological conditions (outside of clouds by at least 500 feet and in more than 3 miles of visibility) and ask air traffic control for an instrument flight plan to enter the clouds and escape. As an alternative, a pilot could declare an emergency and either enter clouds to avoid terrain or, particularly in the case of a helicopter, make an off-airport landing.
The pilot, William Ellsworth, who was fatally injured, was reported to be a commercial pilot for American Airlines who flew part-time for ACS.
The Bell helicopter was manufactured in 2007. The helicopter’s most recent annual inspection was completed on August 3, 2012. At the time of the accident, the helicopter had accrued only 837.3 total hours of operation.
Tighe Sullivan, who was one of the two passengers on board, was fatally injured. Stephen Barral was seriously injured.
Tighe Sullivan, founder and chief operating officer of a New York City-based investment management firm, was a doting father of three, active in charitable causes in his hometown of Darien, CT. Stephen Barral has worked for W.H. Mell Associates, a municipal bond brokerage in Summit, NJ.
Our firm has significant experience in investigating and litigating claims arising out of helicopter and fixed-wing flight accidents. The firm has handled many crashes involving Bell model helicopters and has investigated and prosecuted many claims arising from weather-related crashes, including most recently the Colgan 3407 plane crash that killed 50 persons in Buffalo, NY. The firm was lead counsel on behalf of the victims’ families.
Kreindler partners, Dan Rose, Brian Alexander and Justin Green are investigating this crash. They are former military helicopter and fixed-wing pilots. Mr. Rose, who is an active pilot, has recently flown into Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport.