NTSB Identification: LAX98FA211.
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Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Thursday, June 25, 1998 in MT. WAIALEALE, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/17/2001
Aircraft: Eurocopter AS-350-BA, registration: N594BK
Injuries: 6 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.

While operating under visual flight rules on an on-demand for hire aerial sight seeing tour, the helicopter encountered instrument meteorological conditions and impacted the 80-degree upsloping face of a mountain, 200 feet below its ridge crest. The tour was to circumnavigate a mountainous area on the island, with a visit to an extinct volcanic crater in a mountain valley. Three helicopters departed on the tour, with about 2 minutes between each departure. The pilot, who was employed by the operator 2.5-months earlier, was in trail behind the company's most experienced (chief) pilot, and second most experienced pilot. None had received a weather briefing from an FAA approved source as required in the company operations specifications. Throughout the flight they were in radio contact with each other. The two lead pilots were a few minutes ahead of the accident pilot as he approached an area of the valley near the crater where inclement weather existed. The second pilot ahead of the accident helicopter said that when he exited the crater near the accident site, he encountered heavy rain showers and lowering ceilings and visibilities. Although the accident pilot attempted to follow the company pilots ahead of him, he did not observe the valley entrance to the Waialeale crater viewpoint and flew past it. As the flight progressed, the pilot encountered lowering ceilings, heavy intensity rain showers, and reduced flight visibility. The pilot became disoriented, misjudged his location, and while cruising toward what he believed was the prescribed crater entranceway inadvertently entered instrument meteorological conditions. Just before the collision, the pilot transmitted to the pilots ahead of him that the weather was getting worse and that he could not see. The second pilot then provided a suggested heading that would take the accident pilot away from the mountainous terrain. The helicopter impacted the mountain on a heading nearly opposite of the one suggested. The helicopter was subsequently recovered and examined. No evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunction was noted. Between 30 and 45 minutes after the accident, one of the operator's tour pilots reported receiving the signal of an emergency locator transmitter (ELT). This pilot proceeded to pass by the general accident site area but was unable to observe the crashed helicopter due to the low level of clouds.

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

The pilot's decision to continue VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions consisting of lowering ceilings and visibility in mountainous terrain, which resulted in the inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions and a collision with a mountain side. A factor in the accident was the failure of the chief pilot, who had directly observed the deteriorating weather conditions, to direct the following pilots to avoid the area.

Full narrative available

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