Deadly news helicopter crash likely caused by shaky inspections, leading to loose parts, feds say

CHARLOTTE, NC– Investigators have found disconnected and missing hardware aboard a helicopter that crashed in 2022, killing the pilot and meteorologist at a North Carolina television station, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The NTSB’s final report on the 2022 crash, released Thursday, said the probable cause was inadequate inspections by the pilot and maintenance personnel, resulting in an eventual separation of the hardware and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter .

WBTV meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag died after the Robinson R44 helicopter crashed along a Charlotte highway. The purpose of the flight was to provide video training to the meteorologist on a simulated news scene, the NTSB report said. About five minutes into the flight, the helicopter began a series of 360-degree turns over Interstate 77, but during the third turn it entered a steep descent and then crashed into a grassy area next to the highway, the report said.

An investigation of the flight controls revealed that hardware that should have been connected to a part of the main rotor had been disconnected and the connecting hardware was missing, the report said. An examination of the remaining components revealed that the connecting hardware failed during flight, the report said. The report concluded that the hardware is unlikely to have been secure before the flight and that it may have been loose for several flights before the crash.

Examination of the remaining hardware revealed that one component had been installed backwards, most likely during an overhaul approximately three years before the crash. According to the report, inspection of the hardware was required by the pilot during each preflight inspection and during the most recent 100-hour inspection in October 2022.

Maintenance records also showed that a service letter from Robinson Helicopter Company ordering operators to replace certain nuts due to corrosion and cracking issues had not been complied with, according to the report.

In March 2023, Myers’ wife, Jillian Ann Myers, sued Wilson Air Center-North Carolina maintenance facility, the Total Traffic and Weather Network and iHeartMedia. Meyers worked for WBTV and Tayag worked for the Total Traffic and Weather Network, which is owned by parent company iHeartMedia, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and claims the helicopter was running on contaminated fuel, which could lead to engine failure. It also says the pilot failed to adequately perform flight inspections and emergency engine failure procedures. She claims that the company that owned the plane is liable for these errors.

Reached by phone Friday, Kansas City, Missouri-based aviation attorney Gary C. Robb, who represents the Myers family, called the maintenance errors “egregious” and said there were multiple avenues to catch them. He said the family hopes to shine a light on these and other maintenance errors and “move the needle toward greater safety.”

WBTV, iHeart Media and Wilson Air Center-North Carolina did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment on the report.