NTSB says iPad wedged in copter controls caused crash that killed the pilots on board

NTSB says iPad wedged in copter controls caused crash that killed the pilots on board
The Apple iPad played a major role in  a helicopter crash in Idaho last year according to investigators working for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The chopper, a Boeing CH-47D, crashed into the Salmon River. While rescue crews were able to pull the pilot and co-pilot out of the wreckage, both ultimately died from the injuries they sustained in the crash.

The NTSB has yet to release an official statement, but VerticalMag (via AppleInsider) says that the independent government agency released a public docket related to the crash. A section of the public docket titled "Exemplar Helicopter and iPad Examination Summary" reveals how investigators were able to retrieve the flight crew's iPad from the river. Three gouge marks were spotted on the tablet which investigators used to conclude that the device had dropped and became wedged in the co-pilot's left pedal adjustment lever.

Using another helicopter with a similar configuration, the NTSB was able to recreate the incident as the iPad wedged between the left pedal and heel slide support assembly when the pilot applied pressure to the right pedal. The report says, "That prevented the pedals from re-centering while also pushing against the co-pilot's left pedal adjustment lever." As the pilot added more input to the right pedal, the iPad applied more pressure to the co-pilot’s pedal adjustment lever.

The co-pilot's height was five feet, ten inches, and the recreation showed, with the seats and set restraints adjusted for comfort, "neither a slightly shorter (5'7") nor a slightly taller (6'2") man could reach and free the jammed iPad. The co-pilot's flight helmet would have also made it impossible to free the wedged tablet.

The iPad is considered an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) which is used to replace pounds of paper documentation and to assist with flight planning. Andy Evans, director of the aviation safety consultancy Aerossurance, said, "Hopefully this accident will prompt operators to have a long hard look at all possible loose articles in cockpits and robustly securing valuable tools and sources of situational awareness like EFBs."

In 2021, Delta Air Lines, AT&T, and Apple came together to upgrade all of the carrier's (Delta, not AT&T) electronic flight bags to the 5G supporting Apple iPad Pro powered by Apple's M1 chip.

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