Carson Helicopters

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Carson Helicopters
Private
Industry Aerospace
Logging
Founded 1963
Headquarters Perkasie, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Products Commercial helicopters
Website carsonhelicopters.com

Carson Helicopters, Inc is a helicopter operating company based in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, United States. Carson operates a fleet of Sikorsky S-61 helicopters in aerial lift services and aerial firefighting. Carson is best known for the 2008 crash that killed seven firefighters and two pilots. Former VP Steve Metheny was sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison for falsifying documents that led to the crash. Mr. Metheny went to great lengths after the crash to attempt to conceal the fraud. When he knew that investigators would be examining the company’s operations, he directed other employees to remove weight from other similar helicopters, including taking off a fuel cell and replacing a very heavy battery with an empty shell of a battery. Some of the employees refused to participate in that deception, with one explaining that he was done lying about the helicopter’s weight. [1]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

A Carson Helicopter S-61N Fire King being refueled during firefighting operations in Southern River, Western Australia.
A Carson Helicopters Fire King drops on the 2007 WSA Lightning Complex fire.
A Carson Helicopters Fire King drops on the 2007 WSA Lightning Complex fire.
  • On 9 June 2008 workers from Carson Helicopters sparked a fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge which burned for 111 days.[2] Carson Helicopters had been in the process of completing a 1,110 acre clearing project to remove trees damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 when sparks from logging equipment touched off the blaze [3] A federal contract with Carson Helicopters allowed the company to keep valuable cedar recovered during the clean up effort in exchange for also removing unusable timber.[4] The fire was declared out on October 7, 2008. Total cost to suppress the 4 month, 4,884-acre blaze has been estimated at over $12.5 million.[5]
  • On 5 August 2008 a Carson Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N (tail number N612AZ)[6] crashed on take off. According to the NTSB, nine people were killed. These were the pilot-in-command, Roark Schwanenberg, 54, of Lostine, Forest Service safety official Jim Ramage, 63, and seven firefighters: Shawn Blazer, 30, of Medford; Scott Charlson, 25, of Phoenix, Ore.; Matthew Hammer, 23, of Grants Pass; Edrik Gomez, 19, of Ashland; Bryan Rich, 29, of Medford; David Steele, 19, of Ashland; and Steven "Caleb" Renno, 21, of Cave Junction. The copilot and three firefighters escaped the burning wreckage and survived with serious injuries. The NTSB's preliminary report determined that the cause was a loss of power on take off probably caused by an engine failure. In January 2010 the NTSB issued its final report finding that the probable causes of this accident were several actions by Carson Helicopters: intentional understatement of the helicopter’s empty weight; alteration of the power available chart to exaggerate the helicopter’s lift capability; using unapproved torque in performance calculations; and that additional causes were insufficient oversight by the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.[7][8] Relatives of the victims concerned by the change in the NTSB report filed a lawsuit against General Electric and on March 27, 2012 a jury unanimously ruled that the primary cause of the accident was the failure of the GE CT-58 engines.
  • In February 2013, two Carson Helicopters former employees were indicted over charges related to the August 2008 crash. A federal grand jury in Medford, Oregon indicted Steven Metheny, a former Vice President of Carson, and Levi Phillips, the former maintenance chief of the company. Charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States were filed against both, with Metheny also being charged with other violations including mail fraud, wire fraud, making false statements to the Forest Service, and endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. The findings of the National Transportation Safety Board in 2010 stated there was “intentional wrong-doing” by Carson Helicopters that under-stated the weight of the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter and over-stated its performance in their bid to the USFS on $20 million in contracts for seven helicopters. The August 2008 accident was then directly due to this understatement of weight and overstatement of performance.[9]
  • In September 2013, former maintenance chief of Carson, Levi Phillips, admitted fraud and pleaded guilty in a deal that includes his full cooperation with the investigation, and testifying against former Carson VP Metheny [10]
  • In June 2015, former Carson VP Steven Metheny was sentenced to 12 years, 7 months in prison for falsifying documents that led to the 2008 crash.[11]

References[edit]

External links[edit]