NTSB Identification: NYC01FA053.
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Accident occurred Monday, December 04, 2000 in SANDGAP, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/02/2001
Aircraft: Robinson R-44A, registration: N744FC
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 non-instrument rated pilot departed on a night cross-country flight with no record of a weather briefing. Although visual meteorological conditions prevailed, witnesses along the route of flight reported isolated areas of fog and low clouds were present. The terrain was rolling tree-covered hills with no ground lighting. Two witnesses in a vehicle saw a momentary glow behind a ridge covered by a low cloud. A tree with freshly skinned bark located near the top of a ridge was found 670 feet prior to where the main wreckage was found. The debris trail between the tree and main wreckage included components from the battery located in the nose of the helicopter, side doors, windshield plexiglas, part of the trailing edge of one main rotor blade, and part of one tail rotor blade. The helicopter burned at impact. No evidence of a mechanical failure or malfunction was found with the helicopter or engine. The pilot's total flight experience was estimated at about 386 hours with 60 hours in make and model.

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

the pilot's improper weather evaluation, and his failure to maintain terrain clearance while operating over unlighted terrain at night. Factors were the isolated areas of fog, and night conditions.

Full narrative available

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