NTSB Identification: MIA02FA106.
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Accident occurred Monday, June 03, 2002 in Tampa, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2005
Aircraft: Helicopters & Airplanes, Inc. Exec 162F, registration: N268MA
Injuries: 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.

An individual who flew in the accident helicopter with the accident pilot on a 1.0 to 1.5 hour flight earlier that day reported smelling vodka on the pilot's breath before the flight departed. The individual did not believe the pilot was drunk and asked him if he had been drinking. The pilot replied that he was "not drunk." The individual reported that during the flight, the engine did not "miss a beat", but the pilot advised him the oil was getting hot. The individual also reported that during the flight, he noted two lights illuminated on the overhead panel. One of the lights was on the whole time and one red light came on towards the end of the flight. After the red light came on, the pilot immediately proceeded towards the helipad and landed. The accident flight departed from the helipad at about 2042, and according to one witness near the accident site, she observed the helicopter circling then described what she thought was the pilot losing control of the helicopter with the helicopter spinning around the axis of the main rotor, then hearing the main rotor noise increase, followed by a return to circling. She observed that sequence two times. An individual located in the house collided with reported hearing the helicopter followed by the sound of an impact. Two of the three individuals of the house went outside, an observed the helicopter on the roof. Both individuals who went outside went onto the roof to rescue the pilot. One of the individuals later reported smelling the odor of alcohol on the pilot's breath. The pilot was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Hospital records indicate a blood specimen taken approximately 1 hour 40 minutes after the accident was positive for ethanol (136 mg/dL), or .136 percent by weight. A FAA toxicology study of a blood specimen of the pilot taken at the same was positive for ethanol (105 mg//dL), or .105 percent by weight, citalopram (0.017 ug/ml) and zolpidem (0.433 ug/ml). A review of the pilot's medical records revealed his complaint to his private physician on May 23, 2002, was for insomnia and depression. Physical examination includes in part "Psychiatric: normal mood and affect." Impressions were "Insomnia" and "Chronic Depression." The same doctor provided 20 mg samples of Celexa (citalopram) to take 1/2 tablet daily, and prescribed 10 mg Ambien, 1/2 to 1 tablet to be taken orally at bedtime as needed. The medical records from the pilot's private physician do not indicate a request for psychiatric consultation, or an inquiry by the physician regarding suicidal intent, or alcohol/drug use. A review of 14 CFR Part 91.17 indicates no person may act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while under the influence of alcohol having .04 percent by weight or more in the blood, or while using a drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety. The NTSB did not examine the helicopter at the accident site but did examine the helicopter following recovery. Examination of the helicopter revealed flight control continuity was confirmed for collective, cyclic, and the tail rotor. Main and tail rotor drive continuity was confirmed. Without repairs of any to the engine which remained in the helicopter, the damaged main rotor blades were removed, the engine was started and operated for approximately 17 minutes. During the engine run the engine was operated independently using only ignition system No. 1, followed by ignition system No. 2. The engine was also operated independently using the No. 1 FADEC, followed by the No. 2 FADEC. No obvious discrepancies were noted during the engine run. The engine with water pump, and both FADEC units were removed from the helicopter and sent to the helicopter manufacturer's facility for an engine run and readout of the FADEC units. A load was placed on the engine which was started and operated for approximately 19 minutes, no discrepancies were noted during the engine run. Readout of the FADEC primary engine control unit (ECU) revealed that with respect to the accident flight which lasted approximately 48 minutes, the maximum engine coolant temperature recorded was in the green arc (normal range), and no other discrepancies were noted. NTSB personnel did not have an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the accident with the pilot due to the fact that he was fatally injured in an airplane accident the following morning at approximately 0822 hours, which was approximately 10 hours 52 minutes after the helicopter accident or 5 hours 47 minutes after being released from the hospital. NTSB report MIA02FA104 discusses the facts, conditions, and circumstances of the airplane accident.

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

The pilot's intentional operation of the helicopter while impaired by alcohol and a drug (zolpidem) resulting in the in-flight collision with a house.

Full narrative available

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