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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Flying Our Distracted Skies

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In August 2011, four people – the pilot, a flight nurse, flight paramedic, and a patient being transported to Liberty Hospital in Missouri – died in a LifeNet helicopter accident. An initial investigation by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Association (FAA) confirmed that the pilot was attempting to stop to refuel when the helicopter smashed into a field.

In the air, the pilot reported that he had two hours of fuel on board when, in fact, he had about an hour of fuel left. After picking up the patient in Bethany, the pilot made plans with his company’s communication center to stop for refueling, but the helicopter crashed about 7 miles short of its destination.

After more than a year, investigators have determined several factors that caused the fatal accident.

Distraction. During his shift, the pilot sent or received 85 texts. Although evidence showed he sent several text while flying the helicopter, including when he was attempting to land for refueling, those text proved less consequential than text messages sent and received while conducting mandatory pre-flight checks of the helicopter. Because of ground distractions, the pilot failed to detect that the helicopter did not have sufficient fuel to complete the flight.

Fatigue. At the time of the accident, the pilot had been on duty about 12 hours after getting five or fewer hours of sleep.

Inadequate training. The NTSB said the pilot did have enough training to perform a crucial flight maneuver known as autorotation after he ran out of fuel. The investigation found that the autorotation training the pilot received was not representative of an actual engine failure at cruise speed, which likely contributed to his failure to successfully execute the maneuver.

I don’t think I have to tell you the dangers of distractions, fatigue, and improper training on the ground behind the wheel. I hope this accident brings public awareness that the same distractions can, and are, serious or fatal on our waters and in our friendly skies.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.