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Medical Helicopter Pilot Texting On A Cell Phone Contributed To Fatal Crash (Part A)

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On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, a medical helicopter crash tragically killed 4 people.  The crash was partly due to texting by the pilot. See news source: Associated Press.

Electronic devices such as cell phones and blackberries not only cause serious and fatal car and truck accidents, they are becoming a problem across all modes of transportation, such as:

  • trains,
  • planes,
  • subways, and even
  • ships.

According to the Associated Press, it was the first fatal commercial aircraft accident investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board in which texting has been implicated.

The Board agrees that the pilot was distracted and tired.  He skipped preflight safety checks, which would have revealed that the plane was low on fuel.  Sadly, the helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed into a farm field.

During the hour and 41 minutes before the crash, the pilot exchanged 20 text messages with an off-duty female coworker, whom he was going to have dinner with that night. Three of the messages were sent, and five were received while the helicopter was in flight, though none were sent or received in the final 11 minutes prior to crash.

Although the pilot was not texting at the time of the crash, the Board believes that it was possible that texting while in flight took his mind off his duties and caused him to skip safety steps he might have otherwise performed.

David Strayer, a professor of cognitive and neural science at the University of Utah says, "If we have two things demanding attention, one will take attention away from the other.  If it happens while sitting behind a desk, it's not that big of a problem. But if you are sitting behind the wheel of a car or in the cockpit of an airplane, you start to get serious compromises in safety."

The pilot's employer had a policy prohibiting the use of electronic devices by pilots during flight.

Click here to read Part B of the article, which discusses the dangers of texting while operating a car/bus/helicopter and its legal consequences.

Category: Car and Truck Accidents

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