Two Police Helicopters Destroyed In Catastrophic Rotor Collision
On November 17, 2012 a Pasadena Police Department (PD) helicopter struck a stationary Pasadena PD helicopter while maneuvering to park at the Pasadena Police Benedict Heliport in Altadena, California.
More details follow, but first a brief comment: In the aftermath of this accident the Pasadena Police Department was quoted by news sources reassuring the public that the accident would not impact police coverage, primarily because the department had four additional helicopters. No mention was made of the fact that in the split-second accident you see in this video taxpayers lost millions of dollars. That I could find no record of the city addressing the financial impact of this event is concerning. Remember the Chicago Transit Authority train crash, where the operator fell asleep and her ride collided with a bumping post? She was only sixty days on the job and had already fallen asleep while operating a train at least one other time, careening through a station where she was supposed to have stopped. Her last nap as a train operator cost the taxpayers of Chicago well over six million dollars, and she wasn't even fired from her job immediately. The Pasadena Police Department has acquired at least one new helicopter since this accident, and it comes as no surprise that they seem to have been less-than-transparent about its cost. Demand accountability and transparency from the officials who spend your money, and don't let the drama of transportation accidents overshadow their often immense financial burden.
Onward: N911FA, a Bell OH-58, was attempting to park on Pad 2 at the Pasadena PD heliport, and N96BM, a Bell OH-58A, was on the ground adjacent to Pad 1 with its main rotor blades turning when the collision occurred. Pasadena PD operated both helicopters under the provision of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as public-use flights. Both helicopters sustained substantial damage.
The commercial pilot and two passengers of N911FA received minor injuries. The commercial pilot and tactical flight officer (TFO) of N96BM received minor injuries. Also, one person on the ground received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plans had been filed.
According to Pasadena PD, N911FA was providing traffic support for a college football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The flight departed at 1552, and flew toward the Rose Bowl; the intent was to be gone for a 1 hour flight. At the time of departure for N911FA, weather at the heliport was not a factor. At 1555, about 3 minutes later, N96BM was moved out of the hangar in response to an in-progress call, and placed on the outside edge of Pad 1, in between Pad 1 and Pad 2 facing to the south. The pilot of N96BM had started the engine, and begun the startup sequence.
At 1558, N911FA returned to the heliport due to diminishing weather. The pilot of N911FA made a normal approach from the north to the main pad. From the main pad, the pilot performed a left pedal turn turning the helicopter to the east, and hover-taxied toward pad 2. The pilot then made a right pedal turn, turning the helicopter to the south. As she lowered the collective to land on pad 2, the main rotor blades came into contact with N96BM's main rotor blades.
The air support Lieutenant (Lt.) was interviewed on November 18, 2012. He had observed that throughout the day prior to the accident, the weather had been spotty; clear one moment, cloudy and overcast the next. As N911FA took off, he observed from his office marginal weather conditions. A couple of minutes later, he looked out his window, and noted that the weather was closing in, and that N96BM was on Pad 1 preparing to take off. He walked out of his office toward N96BM, with the intent of telling the flight crew to stand down. He stated that he had been standing by the left door on the outside of N96BM. He observed N911FA returning to base, and thought that was a good thing. He recalled hearing a loud bang, getting knocked to the ground, and then running away from N96BM.
The complete NTSB accident report can be found at