NTSB Identification: LAX97GA105.
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Accident occurred Sunday, February 16, 1997 in SANTEE, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/15/2000
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas 369D, registration: N5200Y
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

: 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 public aircraft accident report.

The sheriff's pilot and qualified observer attempted a takeoff from a hover at a remote canyon in night visual meteorological conditions. The crew was using the helicopter's search light within the previous 15 minutes and the pilot's eyes were not dark adapted. The searchlight was turned off by the observer during the takeoff and the pilot became disoriented. The helicopter descended vertically, struck the ground, and bounced over 100 feet rearward. The public-use agency's training program did not provide for night recurrent emergency procedure training, recurrent night physiology training, or crew resource management training for night flight.

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

Spatial disorientation and temporary visual impairment that led to a loss of aircraft control as result of difficulty to light adaptivity. Contributing was the crew coordination and inadequate night flight recurrency training.

Full narrative available

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