NTSB Identification: LAX04LA256.
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Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Thursday, July 08, 2004 in Hilo, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/08/2005
Aircraft: Eurocopter AS350 B2, registration: N196BH
Injuries: 1 Minor,6 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot encountered instrument meteorological conditions during an air tour flight. The helicopter's main rotor contacted trees as the pilot was attempting to reverse course; the helicopter then hit hard and rolled over during an emergency landing. During the flight, the pilot heard reports of poor weather conditions along his intended flight path. He chose to fly along a different flight path to avoid the weather. He flew above a scattered, thin layer of clouds, and the weather began changing rapidly and clouds formed and closed in on the helicopter. The pilot descended through a hole trying to regain visual conditions underneath the cloud deck. Once below the clouds, the weather continued to worsen as the clouds and fog continued to surround and engulf the helicopter. Now in instrument conditions, the pilot was attempting to reverse course and climb when the main rotor impacted a tree. The helicopter began vibrating severely and an emergency landing was initiated. During the touchdown, the right skid struck a boulder, and the helicopter rolled onto its side. No mechanical malfunctions were reported with the helicopter. A witness reported that just prior to the accident, weather conditions were sunny and clear, then the fog rapidly came in and surface visibility decreased to 4 feet. She further stated that the rapidly changing weather is common to the area.

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

the pilot's inadequate planning/decision by his VFR flight into IMC, and his failure to maintain obstacle clearance which resulted in an in-flight collision with a tree. A low ceiling and fog were contributing factors.

Full narrative available

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