NTSB releases final report on 2017 helicopter crash that killed 2 Virginia State troopers

Virginia News

(WRIC) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its final report in regards to a 2017 helicopter crash that claimed the lives of two Virginia State troopers.

The investigation, spanning multiple years, concluded that the pilots’ inability to recover appropriately, in addition to inadequate training, led to the deadly August 2017 helicopter crash outside of Charlottesville. The 10-page factual report does not state a specific cause of the crash, however. According to Virginia State Police, 47 witnesses were interviewed for the final report.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen (left) and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates (right).

In 2017, Virginia State troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates piloted a helicopter on Aug. 12, to provide an aerial feed of activities on the ground as the “Unite the Right” rally commenced. According to the NTSB report, a “vortex ring state,” defined as an aerodynamic condition that causes a helicopter to descend rapidly in the downwash from its own rotor blades, subjected the aircraft to “uncommanded pitch and roll.”

A review of the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit revealed that “vortex ring state” wasn’t listed in any of the sample lesson plans for initial or recurrent training. The review also revealed that the associated maneuvers were considered to be optional.

The document stated that there was no record that Cullen, who was piloting the aircraft, was ever trained and prepared to respond to a condition that may have caused the bell helicopter to spin and roll before crashing.

Cullen and Bates had been employed by the VSP Aviation Unit since 1999 and 2017, respectively.

Click here to read the factual report.

Click here to read the public docket.

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