FAA Was Investigating Pilot Involved In Tahlequah Helicopter Crash - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

FAA Was Investigating Pilot Involved In Deadly Tahlequah Helicopter Crash

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The crash killed the pilot and a passenger last year. The crash killed the pilot and a passenger last year.


TAHLEQUAH, OK -- The Federal Aviation Administration was taking action against a helicopter pilot at the time of a crash that killed him and a passenger. 

A new federal report on the crash also indicates the pilot had meth and a strong narcotic in his blood, had been up all night and was not qualified to fly at night in bad weather.

The crash of the Robinson R-22 happened before dawn on October 14th near the Tahlequah airport. The crash killed the pilot, Mark James Mahaney, 26, and his passenger, Darci Lynn Scraper, 20.

12/6/2009 Related story: Special Memorial Held For 20-year-old Killed In Helicopter Crash

According to a new report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA had sent a letter of investigation to Mahaney in September alleging that he had provided "false or fraudulent information" on his medical certificate application dated April 28th, 2008 and that he had failed to report in a timely manner a motor vehicle action.

The NTSB report, called a factual report, says the FAA's letter discussed three separate alcohol-related motor vehicle actions on Mahaney's driving record.  The report states the offenses happened on July 14th, 2003, January 26th, 2004 and March 9th, 2009. 

Read the report.

The report says the pilot had not responded to the FAA's letter and the FAA was in the process of initiating an enforcement action review when he was killed in the crash.

Toxicology tests performed at the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City revealed the presence of numerous drugs in the pilot's blood.  They included Acetaminophen, Amphetamine, Doxylamine, Norpropoxyphene, Propoxyphene, Dextromethorphan, Dextrorphan and Methamphetamine.

The NTSB says it checked the pilot's dental records and discovered he was prescribed a combination of propoxyphene and acetaminophen for pain following a tooth extraction and a tooth repair the day before the accident.  Propoxyphene is a strong narcotic pain reliever.

According to the report the FAA was investigating Mahaney for his answers on his application for a 3rd Class Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate, which is part of the process of becoming a private pilot. 

The FAA says he answered "No" to the question "Do You Currently Use Any Medication" and to all items under Medical History, including specifically "Substance dependence or failed a drug test ever, or substance abuse or use of illegal substance in the last 2 years," "history of any conviction(s) involving driving … while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; or … actions involving an offense(s) which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges …," and "History of nontraffic convictions (misdemeanors or felonies)."

The new NTSB report also raises issues about Mahaney's qualifications to fly at night and in bad weather.

FAA records show Mahaney received his private pilot certificate on July 31st, 2009.  At the time of application for this certificate, the pilot reported a total flight time of 85 hours, all of which were logged in the Robinson R22.  The application reflected 3.5 hours of night instruction and zero hours of instrument training.

The NTSB checked the Pilot Operating Handbook for the R22 and it says "visual flight rules operations at night are permitted only when visual reference can be maintained due to object illumination provided by ground or adequate celestial illumination."  The investigator says, according to Robinson Helicopter, flight by reference to the instruments is not approved; day or night." 

The NTSB says several witnesses in the area reported low overcast skies with limited visibility due to light rain and mist at the time of the crash.

The report says family and friends told investigators the pilot had been up all night watching movies and intended to fly from his home to the airport to meet a friend, put his helicopter in the hanger and go hunting. 

The friend waited at the airport but left when the helicopter didn't arrive.  Family members of the passenger filed a missing persons report on the afternoon of October 15th, and the wreckage was located from the air the morning of October 16th, 2009.

A relative of Mahaney's passenger has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the pilot's family, as well as the aircraft manufacturer. 

According to the NTSB, the helicopter was registered to Trevor Noble, Terry Noble, and Robert Koudelka.  The NTSB says Trevor Noble and Robert Koudelka were killed in separate aviation accidents, Noble on November 5th, 2007, and Koudelka on November 2nd, 2008.  The NTSB  says Terry Noble could not be located.

The report says a mechanic with Sevier County Choppers, located in Tennessee, provided records of the maintenance performed on the helicopter.  According to the records, the most recent maintenance conducted on the helicopter was a 100-hour inspection, which was conducted in accordance with the R22 maintenance manual.  It was completed on July 27th, 2009, at an aircraft total time of 1,542.7 hours.

The next and final report from the NTSB on the crash will be the probable cause report, which should be issued in the next few months.

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