Report on Fatal Charlottesville Police Helicopter Crash Focuses on Training

Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were monitoring street clashes after the 2017 Unite the Right rally

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A new report finds that Virginia State Police did not require training for a certain flight condition that contributed to a fatal helicopter crash during the protests in Charlottesville.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the findings came out in a National Transportation Safety Board report that was released Wednesday.

The crash had killed Lt. H. Jay Cullen, a veteran pilot, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. They were monitoring street clashes after the 2017 Unite the Right rally.

The report doesn't address the probable cause of the crash. But it said there was no record that the pilot was trained to respond to a condition known as “vortex ring state.”

The condition causes a helicopter to descend in the downwash of its rotor blades and makes it vulnerable to “uncommanded pitch and roll oscillations.”

The NTSB found that a state police training manual didn't list the condition in sample lesson plans. However, it noted “anecdotal information” that Cullen was aware of the phenomenon.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the agency is aware of the report and reviewing its findings.

“The Department is now awaiting the final ruling on the incident to be made by the NTSB Review Board, which will occur in the next 30 to 60 days,” she said.

Bates was 40. Cullen was 48. Both were survived by wives and children. 

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