NTSB Identification: FTW97FA121
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, March 14, 1997 in LENA, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/07/1998
Aircraft: MBB BO-105S, registration: N7161J
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 aircraft accident report.

During a dark night flight from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Lafayette, Louisiana, via Alexandria, Louisiana, the helicopter descended to 500 feet MSL due to weather, and was following Interstate 49 south over the northbound lanes. The pilot slowed the helicopter to 70 knots keeping pace with the traffic. The medical crewmember remembered 'feeling a shudder, like the shudder as the helicopter decelerates through effective translational lift.' He heard the pilot say an expletive and felt the helicopter begin to turn left. He saw sparks overhead and felt plexi glass hit him. Subsequently, the helicopter impacted the ground. During this sequence he lost visual orientation of the helicopter's position in relation to the ground. According to the company's Operations Manual, during nighttime hours, the air ambulance cross country VFR minimum ceiling is 1,000 feet and the minimum visibility is 3 miles. Any flight outside the local flying area is considered a cross-country operation. The medical crewmember reported that the ceiling was about 550 to 600 feet, and the visibility was approximately 2 miles. Examination of the helicopter did not reveal any structural or mechanical anomalies.

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

The pilot's continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, and his subsequent loss of aircraft control due to spatial disorientation. Factors were the pilot not following company procedures and directives, the low ceiling, and the dark night light condition.

Full narrative available

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