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Helicopter pilot tells of control problem

The pilot of a medical helicopter that crashed at the University of New Mexico Hospital last week reported that the control pedals jammed or locked while the aircraft was taking off from the hospital’s rooftop helipad.

The pilot’s statement is in the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the April 9 crash.

The report says the pilot told investigators he began making a left turn but the helicopter kept turning and spun several times before crashing.

“The pilot added that the pedals were jammed, or locked, in the neutral position,” according to the preliminary report.

The helicopter came to rest on its right side, and investigators noticed damage to the roof “consistent with impact from the main rotor blades or skids,” the report says.

The pilot and the two paramedics aboard the helicopter suffered only minor injuries, but the helicopter was heavily damaged. The helipad’s fire suppression system put out a small fire.

When the crash occurred, the Airbus helicopter owned by PHI Air Medical was leaving the hospital after dropping off a patient.

The hospital remained open after the crash, but patients were temporarily removed from rooms on the top two floors immediately below the helipad until engineers determined that the structure was safe.

A crane was used to remove the helicopter’s wreckage Saturday. The helipad was reopened for medical flights Thursday after being inspected and tested, hospital spokesman John Arnold said.

It may be several months before the NTSB issues a final report on its investigation.