Who’s at Fault?
I read, with interest, Lee Benson’s column, “Shedding Pride” (October 2016, page 48). I’m glad no one was injured in the crash of the Hiller 12E.
As a commercial, ASL, MEL instrument, helicopter pilot, with more than 10,000 hours, I respectfully disagree that he is totally responsible for the accident. Mechanics who assembled and installed the altitude-compensating carburetor are also responsible. How could he know the compensating mechanism was installed backward, short of disassembling the carb?
It’s standard procedure to only use the mixture control to shut down the engine. The fact that he returned to base and had a mechanic check it out shows me Lee did the right thing.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Lee Benson replies: I greatly appreciate your thoughts, but I still disagree. This is not self-immolation. I have been at peace with myself over this for a very long time.
Accidents are a chain of events, one joined to another. The team is responsible for the whole chain, including technicians, pilots and management. But each entity is 100% responsible for different links.
Yes, the technician was responsible for installing the altitude-compensation device backward. I was responsible for my lack of system knowledge on this helicopter. When the technician said the mixture control lever was less than full open and had caused the misfire, I should have known better. Also,
management bore responsibility for training the technician and myself, and it failed. But its failure to train didn’t preclude me from seeking out systems knowledge on my own. The team concept is great until it gives a place to hide from individual responsibilities.
I write about your Nov. 29 online report, “Trump DOT Pick Might Focus on Privatization Debate.”
The ATC corporatization proposal in this year’s U.S. House of Representatives’ FAA reauthorization originated with and has been championed by the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster (Republican of Pennsylvania), who has garnered broad support from airlines and others, such as the air traffic controllers.
The assertion that airlines would dominate the board of directors is incorrect. Under the proposal, airlines would nominate less than half of the board seats. The balance would be nominated by other stakeholders, including general aviation and representatives of air traffic controllers. I would also note that under the proposal, board members’ fiduciary responsibility is to the corporation, not to the entities that nominated them.
HAI President Matt Zucarro’s remarks reflect a misunderstanding of Shuster’s proposal. The ATC entity would simply be a service provider with no regulatory authority. Under that proposal, only the government could make changes to airspace, operating rules and safety standards. Zucarro and his members would continue to have the same ability to seek redress from the FAA or Congress regarding issues facing helicopter operations as they currently enjoy today.