NTSB Identification: LAX95FA339.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, September 19, 1995 in IRVINE, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/17/1997
Aircraft: Bell 206L-1, registration: N700TH
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was flying the prototype 2-engine Bell 206L1 back to base from a series of demonstration flights. En route he obtained the current destination weather and forecast conditions from Flight Watch. The current weather was given as 800 scattered with 6 miles, and the forecast called for clear conditions until 2300, followed by 800 overcast with 3 miles. As the flight neared the accident site the pilot was over a broken to overcast layer. Calculations showed the helicopter had about 43 minutes of fuel remaining at that point. The pilot contacted the MCAS El Toro air traffic control tower about 10 miles east at 2,000 feet msl. He told the military controller, 'I need to look for a hole', and the controller provided a suggested heading . Shortly thereafter, the pilot inquired 'Is it o.k. to descend here?' The controller stated 'Just fine, descend right there sir.' The pilot asked the controller what his minimum altitude was at this location and was advised to standby. That was the last communication received from the helicopter. The helicopter was certified for instrument flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

the pilot's intentional VFR flight into IMC conditions and failure to maintain an adequate terrain clearance altitude, and the local controller's improper use of ATC procedure/technique. Factors in the accident were the helicopter's low fuel state and lack of the required equipment for IFR flight.

Full narrative available

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