NTSB Identification: FTW97LA356.
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Accident occurred Monday, September 22, 1997 in PATTERSON, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/26/1998
Aircraft: Sikorsky S-76A, registration: N517AL
Injuries: 2 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During the initial takeoff climb at night in fog, the copilot, who was the pilot flying, allowed the helicopter to enter a descent. The pilot-in-command (PIC) was adjusting the instrument lights at the copilot's request, and did not realize the helicopter was descending until it was approximately 100 feet above the ground. The PIC attempted to arrest the descent, but was unable to do so before the helicopter settled into a crop of sugar cane. After the helicopter 'plowed a path' through the crop, it briefly became airborne, then contacted the ground and came to a stop resting on its right side.

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

failure of the copilot to maintain a positive rate of climb after takeoff, which led to an inadvertent descent and collision with a crop of sugar cane and the ground. Factors relating to the accident were: darkness, fog, and the pilot-in-command's inadequate monitoring of the copilot, when he diverted his attention to adjusting the instrument lights.

Full narrative available

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