By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE final moments before the helicopter crash that killed billionaire coal tycoon Chris Cline, 60, and six other people have been revealed.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released the cockpit voice recording transcript of the July 2019 helicopter crash off Big Grand Cay, Abaco. The transcript, released on Aug 17, captured a conversation mainly between voices identified as the pilot and the first officer/co-pilot. According to a Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report, the pilot was David Jude and Geoffrey Painter was identified as co-pilot.
The July 4 crash killed Cline’s 22-year-old daughter Kameron as well as the pilot. The other victims were Brittney Layne Searson of Palm Beach, Florida; Jillian Nicole Clarke of Los Angeles, California; David Jude of Kentucky; Delaney Wykle of Washington, DC; Geoffrey Lee Painter of Barnestaple, United Kingdom.
The report noted the local time was approximately 2am and the light conditions were dark, however, the pilot and the first officer decided to turn off the landing lights.
“I can turn this landing light off. I don’t know you wanna leave it on?” asked Jude.
“Nah, turn it off. We’ll get all the lights down and get our eyes adapted,” replied the first officer.
Although Jude pointed out a layer of clouds, the first officer maintained, “I’m not worried about that. If we - we can’t get down there then we can’t get down, I mean it’s as simple as that isn’t it.”
Later on, the condition of the helicopter was hinted at.
“I haven’t flown this thing in over a month until today,” Jude said, “ it’s been in the (expletive) shop.”
When the co-pilot asked what was wrong with the helicopter,Jude replied “every (expletive) thing.”
He added: “I wish we’d sell this (expletive) thing. I wish we’d go get us something decent - fly something that we don’t have to go to school for every (expletive) week.”
Things took a turn towards the end of the transcript when the first officer said, “Alright airspeed coming up. No, it’s not coming up. So push that nose forward. Get some airspeed.
Within about 17 seconds, an electronic voice and a sound similar to a warning tone was heard.
“Warning terrain,” the electronic voice repeated.
Jude asked “how high are you” but answered his question three seconds later with “ three hundred feet”.
The first officer responded: “We’re not.”
But, Jude pointed out “That’s what it says over here”.
“Yeah, we were diving,” said the first officer.
Eight seconds later the officer brought up a fatal accident in the UK, in which the exact same thing happened.
It is not clear the exact incident he was referring to. The ill-fated aircraft was a Agusta Westland AW-139.
Business Jet Traveller, an aviation magazine, once highlighted the AW-139 is a similar design to the AW-169.
On October 27, 2018, an AW-169 chopper crashed shortly after take-off from the Leicester City Football Club in the UK killing the pilot and four passengers - including the billionaire club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
UK investigators blamed the crash on a loss of yaw control owing to a failure of the tail rotor control linkage.
A sound of impulsive noise was made and then finally “rotor low” “rotor- ” was uttered before the transcript ended in Cline’s crash.
The chopper crashed minutes after takeoff. However it wasn’t until 12 hours later, at around 2.53pm on Thursday, July 4, that the helicopter was reported missing. After the aircraft was reported overdue, search and rescue efforts were immediately launched. The helicopter was later discovered submerged in 16 feet of water about two miles off Grand Cay, Abaco, where Cline owned a private cay.
The group took the pre-dawn flight to transport two ill passengers to the United States for emergency medical attention, according to reports.