by Phillip Manning ~ February 3rd, 2014
On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board released over 2,000 pages of documents related to the investigation of the crash of the Alaska State Trooper helicopter Helo-1 near Talkeetna last March. The crash took the lives of pilot Mel Nading, Trooper Tage Toll, and Talkeetna resident Carl Ober. Ober had become stranded in bad weather and was retrieved by Helo-1. The helicopter crashed approximately seven minutes after taking off with Ober inside.
The documents do not make a determination of what caused the crash, instead, they detail many of the circumstances on the night of the accident as well as the flight and service records of both Mel Nading and Tage Toll. The documents show that Mel Nading had received multiple commendations for his service as Helo-1’s primary pilot, and interviews with colleagues characterize him as being careful and professional.
The structure of the Alaska State Troopers’ air operations was also scrutinized. In one document, the former supervisor of the aviation unit says that when she took the position, she was the fifth to fill the role in five years. Over time, she says she realized that was due to a lack of authority within the position. The same former supervisor says that she expressed concern over structural changes that assigned pilots directly to Trooper detachment, but was told “that’s just what’s happening.”
Also on Monday, the Alaska State Troopers issued a press release detailing a number of changes to the aviation unit, including the assignment of a new safety officer. The Troopers say they are also re-evaluating their standardized training, and have begun using new GPS tracking equipment in their aircraft. One major change will mean that multiple people are involved in the launching of any airborne search and rescue. On the night of Helo-1’s, crash, pilot Mel Nading ultimately made the decision to launch.
A final determination of why Helo-1 crashed has not been made, and no firm timeline for its release has been set.