NTSB Identification: CHI02FA049.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, December 12, 2001 in Waukesha, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/13/2003
Aircraft: Robinson R44, registration: N7007F
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious,1 Minor.
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 helicopter, while in cruise flight, was destroyed when it impacted a static powerline, a vehicle and terrain . The pilot asked local ATC to fly in controlled airspace and was told to remain outside due to present IFR conditions. Those weather conditions were 1 1/2 statute miles visibility, drizzle, and overcast skies at 400 feet. A witness stated that he "was driving and saw a red light over what seemed like the median a few 100 ft. in the air. The light rose almost straight upward maybe another 200 ft and then began corkscrewing downward." The helicopter is placarded, "THIS ROTOCRAFT APPROVED FOR DAY AND NIGHT VFR [visual flight rules] OPERATIONS." An on-scene investigation revealed no pre-impact anomalies. The fiberglass chin portion of the front right side of the cabin had a linear tear. The right side forward and aft cabin doors had a linear scratch across them. The helicopter color scheme was blue, white, and red. A power line contractor stated, "I inspected the helicopter crash site at I-43, on December 14, 2001. I inspected the static wire span, hands on, and found some plastic and fiberglass shavings. I also found three different color paints, mainly blue, very little yellow and a tiny bit of red. ... The locations of apparent contact points on the shield wire was an area 35 - 40 feet just North of mid-span." A power line employee calculated the wire was about "146' over the roadway." Robinson Safety Notice SN-26 stated, "NIGHT FLIGHT PLUS BAD WEATHER CAN BE DEADLY ... When it is dark, the pilot cannot see wires or the bottom of clouds, nor low hanging scud or fog." A Flight For Life Pilot stated that a request was received for "Aeromedical transport from an accident on [Highway] 164 and [Interstate] -43 by the Waukesha Co. Sheriff's Dept. I determined weather conditions were not acceptable so the flight request was denied."
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's continued flight into adverse weather and not maintaining altitude/clearance from the static line during cruise flight. Factors were the static wire, the darkness of night, the low ceiling, and the vehicle. Full narrative available
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