You Bet Our Lives

Enstrom 280FX Shark (G-ZZWW), built 1990, photographed at the Heli-Day, Kemble Airfield, England. Taken by Adrian Pingstone in August 2003 and released to the public domain.

Enstrom 280FX Shark (G-ZZWW), 1990
‘Useful load’ 930lbs, 225HP, 7′ x 28.7′, 2,600 lbs
Photo by Adrian Pingstone Aug 2003

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive for owners and operators of the Enstrom Helicopter Corporation.

It issued the EAD because they had “…evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition … is likely to exist or develop in other products of these same type designs.” i.e. this brand and model of helicopter. So, spontaneously, a part can break off, a rotor blade detach, causing the aircraft to immediately plummet from the sky, crash and burn furiously. The swath of destruction from the Engstrom 280FX crash in Erie very easily could have been in the middle of a neighborhood – instead it was a training flight and over an open field.

A witness, still obviously shaken from the experience, relates that she “…thought it was coming down on our house.” I can’t imagine the carnage that might have occurred that Monday afternoon if it had been over the homes when the culprit part ‘separated.’ Must be a lot of force involved – the witness said they saw “…an explosion happen at the top of the helicopter.” The FAA EAD indicated the crack that likely caused the crash had “…existed, undetected, for a significant amount of time before the separation.”

Literally a 2,600 lb flying time bomb.

Makes me wonder what could have happened if this part had failed during a reckless stunt while buzzing a residential neighborhood at 100 MPH while at only 200′ altitude. That no doubt window-rattling* maneuver could very easily have turned into one of the darkest chapters in Longmont’s history involving millions of dollars of property damage as well as injuries/deaths.

Thankfully it did not, but based on the crash in Erie it may well have been only a hairs-breadth chance.

Or if this had happened anywhere but an empty road:

Luckily, the owner of that company is respectful of his neighbors and surely is taking great care not to have another incident.


* saber-rattling?

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