NTSB: Crashed Chopper Had No GPS

Medical helicopter crash killed four in Aurora crash

A preliminary report on last year's tragic crash of a medical helicopter in west suburban Aurora suggests available technology might have helped prevent the crash.

The chopper crew was transporting the sick baby from a hospital in Sandwich, Ill., to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  The aircraft struck a radio tower in Aurora, crashed and burned in a nearby field just before midnight, Oct. 15.

Four people, including a 14-month old child, Kirstin Blockinger of Leland, died in the crash of the Air Angels Bell 222. Also killed in the crash were three members of the Air Angels flight crew: William J. Mann, 31, of Chicago; Delbert Waugh, 69, of Carmel, Ind.; and Ronald Battiato, 41, of Peotone.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators say radar data indicate the helicopter took off from Sandwich and consistently maintained an altitude between 1,000 and 1,300 feet. The radio tower, which was featured on all published aeronautical charts, had a height of 1,449 feet, meaning the helicopter flew below the top of the tower. The aircraft struck the tower about 50 feet from the top.
The NTSB factual report does not draw conclusions. But investigators note that while the aircraft's GPS device was capable of displaying terrain and obstacles, "the software for that function was not installed, and had never been installed." 
Company officials said that unit, a Garmin GNS 430 was their primary source of navigation information.
The report confirms that a flashing strobe located on the tower was in working order.  Likewise, skies were clear the night of the crash.
The Safety Board's investigation is continuing. It is expected to be many months before a formal cause of the crash can be determined.
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