How The Army Will Investigate The Chopper Crash

Fort Rucker officials aren't commenting on Thursday's crash except to identify the pilot, 58 year old Michael Lee of Enterprise, a contract flight instructor.

But there are some clues as to what the men were doing when the accident happened. It's very common for all helicopter pilots to practice and execute emergency procedures because that's the only way to be ready if the real thing were to occur.

We don't know if that's what Lee and his students were doing. But because they were on a qualification flight, it's not out of the question.

Army safety inspectors began their work hours after the chopper fell from the sky. They will benefit from the fact the chopper didn't catch fire, that two crew members survived and even though it was a traumatic sight, they have witnesses to describe what happened.

The Army won't say what kind of manuevers the chopper was doing, but student and instructor pilots live with danger all the time. For instance, in one standard exercise, pilots kill the power and use the wind to rotate the blades as the aircraft falls. It's called autorotation, and it's how pilots are trained to save a dying aircraft.

Thursday's accident is the third chopper crash for Fort Rucker based aircraft since January.

The Army will convene a board of inquiry to look into the conditions surrounding the accident, and it's likely Lear Sielger Incorporated, Michael Lee's employer, will join in on that. They'll look at the condition of the helicopter to see if there were any safety issues, weather, and the physical and mental conditions of Lee and the two students aboard.

The Army may announce a prelminary cause in a few weeks.