Carson Helicopters released a statement this afternoon blaming inaccurate documents that deliberately underestimated the weight of the aircraft that crashed during the August 2008 Iron 44 fire on the actions of a single manager.

Carson Helicopters released a statement this afternoon blaming inaccurate documents that deliberately underestimated the weight of the aircraft that crashed during the August 2008 Iron 44 fire on the actions of a single manager.

Carson contends in the statement that even if the loaded Sikorsky helicopter weighed as much as federal authorities say it did, it could have flown safely if both engines worked. A clogged fuel control unit likely caused one of the helicopter's engines to lose power in the moments before the crash, the company claims.

The statement goes on to say that National Transportation Safety Board investigators lost custody of several fuel control parts and conducted a filter inspection incorrectly, then ignored evidence and testimony related to the failure of the fuel-control device and engine.

The statement appears below.

Carson Helicopters has been an active participant in the NTSB investigation of the Weaverville crash of N612AZ and as such has not commented publicly during the investigation due to regulatory prohibitions. We have a strong commitment to all the people affected by this tragic accident and to current flight operators of the S61 helicopter to understand what caused this accident.

It became apparent to Carson management and other members of the investigation team that there were issues with one of the 36 performance charts and the weight estimate of the aircraft provided by a Carson employee for performance of the Forest Service contract. Carson forthrightly acknowledged these issues that were the actions of one manager who acted without the knowledge or consent of Carson senior management and is not reflective of Carson's 50 years of dedicated flight operations, 30 years of firefighting and exemplary safety record.

It is Carson's firm contention that the facts clearly show that the primary cause of this accident was a loss of power to the #2 engine of the aircraft. There is a strong chain of physical evidence in the Public Docket that indicates a high probability that a malfunctioning fuel control unit (FCU) caused a sudden loss of power as the aircraft transitioned to forward flight. Extensive independent real-world flight testing has confirmed that even at weights exceeding what the NTSB has attributed to the accident aircraft, N612AZ should have had enough power to fly away from H44 with two properly operating engines. The co-pilot has confirmed much of this evidence with his recent testimony. The two pilots had nearly 26,000 flight hours of cumulative experience, and the co-pilot is an experienced ex-military Blackhawk pilot and B52 aircrewman. The NTSB has ignored his testimony in favor of supposition. Carson has repeatedly provided to the NTSB substantial evidence that the actual weight of N612AZ was several hundred pounds less than the NTSB has theorized.

Unfortunately, early in this investigation the NTSB lost custody of several fuel control parts, and conducted a filter inspection incorrectly, which they have acknowledged. Since that time, the NTSB has chosen to ignore the physical evidence and flight parameters that indicate a possible blockage in the FCU. They repeatedly refused to participate in independent flight testing, and they have not given proper consideration to the co-pilot's direct testimony of conditions and available power just prior to the crash.

Carson has discovered there is a history of contamination and FCU power loss issues in the S61 Helicopter that was known by other parties. We regard this as an ongoing safety of flight issue and continue to pursue the source of the problem even as the body of evidence has grown indicating that a partial power loss was the major contributing factor to the loss of the crew and passengers of N612AZ. We continue to extend our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of everyone involved.

The statement also provided references to specific documents in the lengthy investigative report.