TALLINN - U.S. investigators have identified a technical malfunction as a possible cause of the Copterline helicopter accident in August, Finland's STT news agency reported. The aircraft crashed into the Bay of Tallinn with 14 people on board. There were no survivors.
The investigators spotted a fault in one of the three flight control panels that operated the Sikorsky S-76C+ aircraft. The wreckage was salvaged from the bottom of the sea.
Without all three panels fully functioning, an aircraft cannot be controlled by power alone.
"The panels in the aircraft's control system are critical components for air safety and the basic overhaul responsibility for them lies with the helicopter manufacturer," Kari Ljungberg, the Copterline safety head, was quoted by STT as saying.
Tonu Ader, an Estonian member on the commission investigating the crash, told the Postimees daily that, "the malfunction had been known for some time by both the commission and the helicopter company working closely with investigators."
Investigation is still under way and there are no grounds to claim with certainty that the accident was caused by the detected fault, said Ader, who spoke from a meeting of the commission in the United States via spokespeople for Copterline.
He said the fault that had been identified was a minor malfunction whose impact on the helicopter's overall stability would be investigated further in the United States.
The Sikorsky S-76C+ of Copterline crashed a couple of minutes after takeoff during a regular commercial flight between the Estonian and Finnish capitals on Aug. 10.