WEYERS CAVE, Va. - The crew of a medical helicopter didn't see a small airplane before the two aircraft collided in the air near a rural airport in the Shenandoah Valley, federal investigators have found.
The 2005 Eurocopter's collision avoidance system displayed two other planes in the area but didn't alert the crew to the third plane, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report. WHSV-TV reported the federal agency's preliminary findings Tuesday.
The 1967 Cessna 172's right wing was separated in the Dec. 31 collision and the plane crashed. The plane's pilot, 32-year-old Jason A. Long of Edinburg, and a passenger, 19-year-old Jacob H. Kiser of Grottoes, were killed.
The Eurocopter landed safely at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave and three people aboard were uninjured, the report said.
According to the report, the helicopter pilot told investigators that the aircraft was descending and was at about 500 feet above ground level when he "saw about 2 feet of white wing right outside." The pilot said he "pulled power" and then felt contact. One flight nurse aboard the helicopter reporting feeling a bump and a shudder. She looked out and saw a white rectangle under the helicopter for "less than a millisecond."
Another flight nurse also reported feeling a bump but said he didn't see anything outside the helicopter.
The helicopter was returning to the airport after dropping off a patient at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. The airplane was on a local personal flight that originated at the airport.
Information from: WHSV-TV, http://www.whsv.com/