The National Transportation Safety Board Thursday called for new limits on helicopter pilots who report for television, following an investigation into the cause of a deadly collision between two Arizona news helicopters in July 2007. The collision, which killed two pilots and two cameramen, occurred as TV news helicopters were jockeying for position above a police car chase in Phoenix. Four TV news helicopters and a police helicopter were in the area, with a fifth news helicopter on the way.
At a public hearing Thursday, NTSB members said the pilots were juggling a number of tasks at the time, which likely contributed to the accident. The pilots were responsible for monitoring multiple radios: air-to-air communication with other pilots in the area, communication with the air traffic control system, a line back to the television station and on-board intercoms connecting them with cameramen. They also were monitoring police communication and watching the action on the ground to deliver play-by-play narration in live reports — all while flying the aircraft. The NTSB voted unanimously to recommend that operators of news helicopters assign the reporting role to someone other than the flying pilot, unless the operator can prove that a pilot’s workload is “manageable under all conditions.” As many as 140 news helicopters operate in the United States, the NTSB estimates.