A sightseeing helicopter made at least two 360-degree turns before crashing in the Grand Canyon and killing three British tourists, according to a preliminary report released Feb. 21.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigators don’t say yet what caused the Feb. 10 crash. But Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University aviation expert Jerry Kidrick said there are likely two possibilities: either environmental conditions or a mechanical problem with the tail rotor, which failed to keep the helicopter from spinning.
“He had a full load on board and there were gusty wind conditions,” Kidrick said. “And in those situations, the tail rotor, if it’s subjected to a gust of wind or turbulence, it can lose its aerodynamic effectiveness.”
The helicopter operated by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters crashed into a rocky wash while approaching a landing pad on Hualapai tribal land just outside Grand Canyon National Park.
Three tourists and the pilot remained in critical condition Wednesday. A full report is expected within a year.