NTSB: Pilot didn't fully prepare before deadly copter crash

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 4:33 PM

SILT, Colo. (AP) — A helicopter crash that killed three people in Colorado last year likely stemmed from the pilot failing to properly prepare for the flight or see a power line that the aircraft struck, federal investigators said.

Pilot Doug Sheffer probably did not spot the line before hitting it because he was flying into the sun, a National Transportation Safety Board probable-cause report said. The January 2014 crash killed him and two passengers, Larry Shaffer and Christopher Gaskill, as they surveyed power lines in the town of Silt.

Investigators found no signs of mechanical problems or pilot medical issues or drug use, the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1KJX6TY ).

The power line that the helicopter snagged at about 170 feet was low enough to the ground that it did not require visibility markers, the agency said.

"The pilot should have familiarized himself with the power lines he was going to patrol and any other wires or obstructions in the area before the flight," the report says. "It is likely that he did not adequately plan for the flight and that, if he had, he might have been aware of the power line and been able to avoid it."

Sheffer was the owner of Rifle-based DBS Helicopters. Shaffer worked for local utility Holy Cross Energy, and Gaskill was an employee of the Front Range company Hot/Shot Infrared Inspections.

The three were using infrared imaging to look for hot spots and other potential problems on Holy Cross' lines.

The NTSB said earlier this year that a flight recording indicated no sign of trouble based on conversations among the three men. The recording indicated that they spoke of seeing deer just before the crash.

An investigator has said it was not clear whether the deer sighting distracted the pilot or if he was part of that conversation. The probable-cause report does not speculate on whether it was a distraction.

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com