NEW YORK - A helicopter that crashed in New York City’s East River with five people aboard had been in the shop just two days before the fatal flight, accident investigators said in a report released yesterday.
Mechanics had wrapped up their annual inspection of the Bell 206 helicopter Oct. 2, the National Transportation Safety Board said in the preliminary report.
During an annual inspection, mechanics take much of an aircraft apart, check for corrosion, and replace worn parts. The work can take several weeks.
In the past, the Federal Aviation Administration has warned pilots to be alert for mechanical problems immediately after maintenance. Records show at least 10 small aircraft have crashed on the first flight after their annual inspections since 1999.
Pilot Paul Dudley told investigators he had just taken off from the East 34th Street Heliport and was 30 to 50 feet above the river when the nose of the helicopter swung unexpectedly to the left.
When he tried to turn right to return to the heliport, the aircraft went out of control, Dudley told investigators.
One passenger died in the crash. Two others were seriously injured, the report says, but it does not detail their injuries.
Dudley and a fourth passenger were unharmed.
Three-fourths of one main rotor blade broke off when the helicopter hit the water, the report said. Investigators had previously said they were unsure if the blade broke before or after the impact.
The report is preliminary and does not give the cause of the accident. That determination could take months.
The helicopter was built in 1976 and had flown 11,580 hours, the report said.