NTSB Identification: DEN04LA149
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, September 27, 2004 in Las Cruces, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/24/2005
Aircraft: American Eurocopter AS-350-B3, registration: N497AE
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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 said that prior to the helicopter's liftoff he checked for and had freedom of controls and no warning or caution lights. He said he had no lights on in the cockpit except "very dim instrument and nav-radio lights." The moon was full, overhead, and bright. The pilot elected not to turn on his searchlight and landing and taxi lights for takeoff. The helicopter came up light on the skids and began a vertical ascent. "The nose began to go left, so I applied right pedal - it seemed stuck/blocked. Within 1 to 2 seconds the aircraft began a right roll. I applied left pressure with the cyclic, but it too seemed extremely stiff and/or stuck." The helicopter rolled over on its right side causing substantial damage. The weather conditions at the time of the accident were reported as clear skies, 10 miles visibility, and winds of 170 degrees at 4 knots. An examination of the helicopter's flight controls and other systems revealed no anomalies. The helipad was located in a former gravel pit with pale white-colored sandy soil surrounding and rising above the pad in all quadrants. Ground scars and paint transfers observed were consistent with the ground resonance spring on the right skid coming in contact with the pad. The ground scars' pattern indicated the helicopter was moving laterally and aft when the spring made first contact with the pad, subsequently initiating a dynamic rollover of the aircraft.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control during takeoff resulting in the helicopter's skid striking the helipad and the helicopter's subsequent rollover. Factors contributing to the accident were the pilot's improper preflight planning/decision, his failure to use the helicopter's landing/taxi lights and searchlight, the bright night, and the pilots diminished ability to see visual references.

Full narrative available

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