NTSB Identification: LAX05LA289.
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Accident occurred Monday, September 05, 2005 in Long Beach, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/26/2007
Aircraft: Bell 206B, registration: N667JM
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 helicopter descended to ground impact after the tow rope of a banner became entangled in the tail rotor system, resulting in the in-flight separation of the tail rotor and tail rotor gearbox. During liftoff for a banner tow flight, the top rear corner of the banner became tangled with the top front corner. The pilot continued with the climb believing the banner would untangle itself. When the banner did not untangle itself, the pilot attempted to maneuver the helicopter and the banner back to the drop point on the airport, but during a slow descent, the banner rotated to a horizontal position, assumed an airfoil shape, and floated higher than the helicopter's position. The pilot said he could no longer see the banner in his rear view mirror, only the tow rope extending up and aft, and he was concerned that the rope might get into the tail rotor. The pilot chose not to release the banner as he descended slowly toward the drop point. The tow rope became entangled in the tail rotor system and the tail rotor gearbox separated from the tail boom. The helicopter then began to rotate. The pilot reduced the throttle to idle in an attempt to reduce the torque and rotations about the vertical axis. He then lowered the nose to gain airspeed. The helicopter impacted terrain in a near vertical attitude. The helicopter was equipped with an electrical and manual release for the banner tow hook.

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

the pilot's decision not to release the banner when it became entangled on itself, which resulted in the banner tow rope becoming ensnarled with the tail rotor system.

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