Are Helicopter Tours Safe? CGTN America Interviews Michael Slack on the Safety of Open-Door Helicopter Tours

One week after a Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) AS350 crashed into the East River in New York killing five passengers, CGTN America spoke with Partner Michael Slack about the series of accidents that’s putting the spotlight on sightseeing helicopter safety.

In particular, the safety of open-door helicopter tours has been the subject of scrutiny following the Liberty Helicopters Crash in New York’s East River on Sunday, March 11 and the announcement from the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily ban open-door helicopter tours. Slack questions if passengers, who are allowed to fly without doors as long as they are harnessed, are being properly trained.

“If these completely unforgiving harnesses – that are almost impossible to get out of – are required in order to have open-cockpit flights, then safety almost demands that you don’t have open-cockpit flights,” said Slack. He also sheds light on the fact that tour operators are stretching themselves thin, attempting to maximize profits by working their pilots and equipment for long periods of time.

“Long hours mean fatigue for pilots, overutilization for the helicopters, and the unusual weather circumstances, that many times the pilots are not experienced with when they become pilots in a new area,” he said.

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NBC New York Interviews Michael Slack and Ladd Sanger on the Safety Issues of Liberty Helicopter’s Harnesses

WNBC in New York interviewed Partners Michael Slack and Ladd Sanger on the deadly safety mechanics involved in the Liberty Helicopter tour crash in the East River, which killed five passengers on board when they were unable to escape from their harnesses.

A simulation training video demonstrated the complicated, multi-point harness like the one used in an open-door helicopter tour. The complicated harness coupled with the upside down position of the helicopter as it was submerged in water was disorienting to the passengers who would have needed to use a blade to cut themselves loose. Slack points out that the harnesses alone raise a glaring red flag, especially since victim Brian McDaniel, a Dallas firefighter who was trained to untangle himself in high-pressure situations was not able to remove the harness.

According to Sanger, “When you have a situation where the helicopter is upside down in the water, it would be virtually impossible for those people to untangle themselves, and these kinds of harnesses should never be used on multiple passengers,” he said. “That’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Also alarming are the comments from the pilot that the fuel shut-off lever may have been accidentally triggered by a bag, according to a law enforcement official. “If the bag could hit the emergency cut-off valve, that’s not a good combination and the NTSB needs to study that,” said Slack.

Watch Slack’s interview.

Watch Sanger’s interview.

Texas Lawyer Features Ladd Sanger’s Promotion to Name Partner; Firm Name Changed to Slack Davis Sanger

As featured in Texas Lawyer, Ladd Sanger was promoted to name partner and the name of the firm to Slack Davis Sanger. Sanger, an FAA-licensed commercial airplane and helicopter pilot, has focused his practice on air crash litigation and has litigated cases in multiple states and federal courts around the U.S. He has been with the firm since 2003.

“The firm’s name change is in recognition of Ladd’s significant contributions to the firm, his dedication to his clients and his dedication to advocating for aviation passenger safety,” said Michael Slack, Managing Partner of Slack Davis Sanger.

Sanger, along with the firm, has handled numerous helicopter and airplane crashes, and through litigation, worked to hold operators, manufacturers and others responsible for the serious injury and death of aviation passengers.

Read full article here.

Slack & Davis Announces Name Change to Slack Davis Sanger

— Dallas Managing Partner Ladd Sanger added as name partner

AUSTIN, TX – Slack & Davis, L.L.P, a national and international personal injury law firm, announces the inclusion of Ladd Sanger, Managing Partner of the Dallas office, as a name partner, which has changed the firm’s name to Slack Davis Sanger LLP. Sanger, an FAA-licensed commercial airplane and helicopter pilot, focuses his practice on air crash litigation and has litigated cases in multiple states and federal courts around the U.S. He has been with the firm since 2003.

“The firm’s name change is in recognition of Ladd’s significant contributions to the firm, his dedication to his clients, and his dedication to advocating for aviation passenger safety,” said Michael Slack, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Slack & Davis.

Sanger, along with the firm, has handled numerous helicopter and airplane crashes and through litigation, and worked to hold operators, manufacturers, and others responsible for the serious injury and death of aviation passengers among other accomplishments.

Sanger was also instrumental in getting a prominent U.S. helicopter manufacturer to retrofit the fuel system in of one of their helicopter models to be more crash resistant. The fuel tank sold on the helicopter was not a crashworthy design and had resulted in numerous post-crash fires causing serious injury and death in otherwise survivable crashes. The modified design resulted in greater passenger safety as the new fuel system is far more crashworthy and, accordingly, has reduced and almost eliminated the likelihood of post-crash fires.

“I am honored to be part of the firm’s name, and look forward to our firm’s continued efforts to advocate for passenger safety and bring justice and rightful compensation to victims and their families,” Sanger explained. “It’s rare to be amongst a group of top-notch lawyers giving victims and their families a voice against oftentimes wealthy and powerful adversaries.”

Sanger has been recognized by Super Lawyers since 2008, named as one of The Best Lawyers in America since 2004 and is AV®-rated by Martindale-Hubbell. He is licensed to practice law in Texas, Colorado and Wyoming.

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USA Today Turns to Michael Slack on Liberty Helicopters Crash in the East River in New York

Five passengers were killed after an Airbus (fka Eurocopter) helicopter AS350 crashed into the East River in New York on Sunday, March 11. USA Today profiled the crash in the article, “Liberty Helicopters crashed 3 times in 11 years around New York City, twice with fatalities,” and turned to Partner Michael Slack for insight.

As the National Safety Transportation Board begins their investigation, one aspect they will look into is whether there was a mechanical failure aboard the aircraft. Emergency divers had to remove the passengers from tight harnesses while they were upside down in the water. Slack explained that if a 26-year-old firefighter trained to get out of tangled ropes or hoses couldn’t get out of the seat harness, it raises questions about the briefing for passengers before the flight and how easy the equipment is to use.

“You’ve got to figure the odds of that guy getting out are real good depending upon seating position,” Slack said. “There’s either some type of issue with the restraints or not opening the door soon enough so that they can get out. Once the water pressure is great enough, they won’t be able to open those doors.” Slack noted that pictures from the passengers show shoulder harnesses, but not the precise buckle or clasp that the manufacturer installed on this helicopter.

“Those things are supposed to have a quick-release, [passengers] are supposed to be briefed ahead of time,” he said.

Read full article.