NTSB Identification: LAX05FA311.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, September 20, 2005 in Baker, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/26/2007
Aircraft: Robinson Helicopter R22 Beta, registration: N957SH
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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.

While flying direct to its destination the helicopter collided with mountainous terrain in a box canyon. The pilot was one of 12 pilots delivering new helicopters to various destinations, all of which required a departure along the same easterly route, through a mountain pass, and then over high desert terrain that included another line of mountains. The planned route of flight followed a major highway and would take about 2.6 hours to complete. Prior to the accident pilot's departure he was observed to be anxious and was heard to say that he had to get to his destination by 1600. After weather delays at the departure airport, the pilot took off at 1425 as the last helicopter of a group of four helicopters spaced about 15 minutes apart. While en route other pilots in the group observed rain and lighting to the northeast of their track once they were east of the mountain pass and elected to follow the major highway and remain clear of the observed weather. Analysis of the meteorological data discloses that the weather conditions in the area to the northeast of the planned flight track (including the accident site location) consisted of light to moderate rain, clouds obscuring higher terrain, restricted visibilities, and possible light to moderate turbulence. Once through the mountain pass the accident pilot radioed a passing airplane that he was heading to the northeast, which is consistent with a straight-line course to his destination. The helicopter was equipped with a GPS navigation system, which had the capability to guide the pilot on a straight-line course to his destination, which could save about 17 minutes of flying time. Based on the evidence, the pilot followed the GPS direct course, and encountered restricted visibility, rain, and moderate turbulence. He unintentionally flew up into a box canyon and collided with rising terrain while attempting to reverse course out of the canyon. Detailed examination of the helicopter and engine revealed no preimpact discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation of the aircraft.

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

The pilot's continued VFR flight into adverse weather conditions that resulted in a collision with mountainous terrain. Contributing to the accident was the obscuration of mountainous terrain by rain and low clouds, moderate turbulence, and the pilot's self-induced pressure to be at his destination by 1600.

Full narrative available

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