Federal regulators say both sets of pilots were at fault when an airplane crashed into a helicopter above the Lantana airport in January 2015.
Nobody was hurt in the crash, and at least one pilot of the airplane told investigators he didn’t even know there had been a collision because his student pilot didn’t tell him. The new report, issued Monday, says the crash was probably caused by poor communication and pilots not knowing what was going on around the airport, which lacks a staffed control tower but is a busy training ground for pilots.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the airplane’s pilots failed to look out for traffic they knew was in the area. Contributing to the cause, though, was the airplane pilots’ failure to announce their intention to land before landing, and the helicopter pilots’ vague radio communications.
The helicopter quickly descended to the ground after the crash. The crash smashed portions of the helicopter’s rotor blade and sliced through a section of a step on the airplane.
Pilots are supposed to announce their intentions as they come toward airports. The pilots on the airplanes did not announce they were coming in for a landing or simulating a landing without engine power. The helicopter pilots on a previous approach had announced an intention to land, but before the crash only radioed to say they were turning for a final approach.
A Federal Aviation Administration manual quoted in Monday’s report warns: “There is no substitute for alertness while in the vicinity of an airport. It is essential that pilots be alert and look for traffic and exchange traffic information when approaching or department an airport without an operating control tower.”
The Robinson R22B helicopter was being operated by Palm Beach Helicopters. The Piper Cherokee airplane was operated by Palm Beach Flight Training.
The airplane was being flown in a flight instruction test by Clifford J. Coffyn, 57, of Boynton Beach, under the instruction of William B. Lumley, 78, of Delray Beach. In the helicopter, Cameron L. Wells, 29, of Lake Worth was serving as a flight instructor to student pilot Lee S. Carter, 27, of West Palm Beach.