Thursday, January 7, 2010

1st Major Aviation Tragedy of 2010!

Going through e-mails yesterday and came across an e-mail talking about what a wonderful job the Department of the Interior had done during the first quarter of the new fiscal year. The e-mail was talking about the accident free record that aviation had and what an accomplishment that was. I believe it was title "Congratulations! - on our way to a mishap free FY2010". The e-mail was sent out by John Mills, Aviation Safety Manager for the Department of the Interior, and stated the following;

Congratulations and well done on a mishap free December! But not only the month of December, the first quarter of FY2010 as well. Not since 2006 has the DOI had a mishap free first quarter... Let's make FY10 a mishap-free year for DOI aviation.

It was a good way to start out the morning. In aviation, like other areas of the Government, we strive to avoid mishaps, incidents with potential, and especially injury. It often time seems like a losing battle, and it is easy to become cynical about the issue of "no accidents". However, we never stop striving to reach this goal. No one ever leaves the house saying, "yep, today is the day to let my guard down... who knows maybe I'll have an accident".

The first e-mail of the day showing praise for a job well done and giving encouragement that we can accomplish our goal of no mishaps, was quickly overshadowed with the news of a helicopter crash in Northern California.

A California Fish & Game Helicopter crashed in Madera County on the Sierra NF southwest of Yosemite earlier today... The company listed is one that our Calif. LE folks used this past summer.

The helicopter that crashed today near Redinger Lake was doing work for the state Department of the Fish and Game, Madera County sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said. Stuart confirmed that the U.S. Forest Service personnel are on scene, and that Madera County deputies are headed there. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office has offered assistance, she said.

Gary Schales, a pilot for the Department of Fish and Game, said the helicopter struck an electrical wire 300 feet above Redinger Lake and crashed. Three Department of Fish and Game employees aboard the helicopter were conducting deer surveys, Schales said.

John Baker, a Central District assistant chief for the department of Fish and Game, said the helicopter was owned by Landells Aviation, an air charter service based in Desert Hot Springs.

Southern California Edison spokesman Bill DeLaine said the helicopter made contact with power lines, but it wasn't clear if that caused the crash. The utility is looking into the extent of the damage, but the crash has not caused a major power outage, he said.

We have since learned that all 3 passengers and the pilot lost their lives during this incident. Although this particular flight was not under the control of the DOI, it is a grim reminder of just how quickly a promissing record of no mishaps can be squashed. It is never a good time to lose a loved one, but anything near a holiday seems to hit a little harder when revisiting thoughts of loved ones who are gone. It will undoubtedly be a difficult time of the year, for many years to come, as the surviving family members remember their lost loved ones.

Our hearts go out to the families... and our cry for vigilence in the persuit of an accident free year are strengthened. We encourage everyone to wake up each morning with a conscious thought about making it a safe day... be sure to clear your mind of other stresses and distractions prior to climbing on board that aircraft, make your mission the focus of what you are doing.

Our Thoughts & Prayers

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