The helicopter that crashed into the Washington Channel yesterday was a Jet Ranger 206 manufactured by Textron Inc.'s Bell Helicopter Division. The craft was owned by Advest Credit Corp., a subsidiary of Advest Group Inc., a financial services holding company based in Hartford, Conn.
An Advest spokesman said the company had leased the aircraft for five years beginning Jan. 1 to Washington Air Services, a for-hire service at National Airport. Washington Air Services shares office space and a telephone number with Stuart Aviation, the licensed operator of the helicopter, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
Washington Air Services did not return telephone calls or respond to knocks on the door of its offices, which are leased from Eastern Air Lines' Hangar 4 at National.
FAA records identified the owner of the company as William Stuart Malone.
The Bell 206 and its engine are widely used and highly regarded, according to helicopter industry and federal safety specialists.
The 206 has been involved in 22 accidents this year, or 19 percent of the national total, including six accidents in which 13 persons were killed, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The model accounts for more than 6,300 of the more than 10,000 registered civil helicopters in the country.
Kenneth K. Woolnough, director of safety and technical programs for the Helicopter Association International, a trade association of companies that operate helicopters, called the 206 a sort of "flying pickup truck."
The 206B model involved in the accident can seat five and is commonly used for charter flights, including aerial photo missions, and as a crop sprayer. The slightly larger 206L is used as a flying ambulance by Maryland State Police and by the U.S. Park Police, which used it yesterday to carry pilot Jack Turley to the hospital.
"It's a very versatile machine, very easy to fly and easy to maintain," Woolnough said.
"Its overall accident record is among the best of all helicopters," said James D. Erickson, an FAA helicopter specialist.
The engine, a C20 manufactured by Allison Gas Turbine, a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., is "a very, very reliable engine, among the best, if not the best," Erickson said.
Erickson and other FAA safety experts said fuel management problems have been one of the most common reasons for engine failure. Some pilots have run out of fuel, and there have been instances of broken fuel lines or water in the fuel.
The average Bell 206 weighs about 3,200 pounds and measures almost 40 feet long, 10 feet tall and about 6 1/2 feet wide.