NTSB Identification: FTW98FA256
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, June 05, 1998 in LA GLORIA, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/30/2001
Aircraft: Eurocopter AS350BA, registration: N911VA
Injuries: 3 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 2,905-hour instrument rated commercial helicopter pilot encountered an area of limited visibility during a dark night flight over an unlit, very sparsely populated, rural area while en route to evacuate a truck driver injured in a highway accident. The helicopter crashed 19 miles west of the truck accident site, indicating that the pilot failed to recognize his intended destination and flew past it. The helicopter impacted trees and terrain in a left turn in a 85 to 95 degrees nose down attitude. The pilot had accumulated a total of 4 hours of actual and 45 hours of simulated instrument flight time, none of it within the 90 days preceding the accident. The pilot was reported to have been concerned about night flights in the area due to the lack of lights on the ground to maintain visual reference. Another helicopter pilot stated that 'at night the area west of the highway is a big black hole.' No discrepancies were found that could have prevented normal flight operations. The pilot who flew the helicopter prior to the accident flight stated that 'the aircraft flew well and responded normally.' The visibility had been severely restricted by thick smoke from fires in Mexico. No distress calls were received from the helicopter. There were no reported eyewitnesses to the accident.

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

the pilot's continued flight into adverse weather conditions resulting in a loss of control due to spatial disorientation. Contributing factors were the dark night illumination, the lack of visual cues, the pilot's lack of total instrument time, and the pressure induced by the medical emergency to complete the medical evacuation.

Full narrative available

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