NTSB Identification: CHI06LA074.
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Accident occurred Thursday, February 02, 2006 in Chesterfield, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2008
Aircraft: Bell 206L-1, registration: N593AE
Injuries: 3 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 emergency medical service (EMS) flight was dispatched at night to pickup a patient from a hospital. The pilot reported that after receiving the dispatch orders he went outside to assess the current weather conditions, which he described as being a "little hazy." The pilot then obtained the local weather radar depiction and surface weather conditions. The pilot determined the weather at the departure and destination was suitable for visual flight rules (VFR) operations. The pilot did not listen to the airport's automated weather observing system (AWOS) broadcast before departure. The helicopter departed and almost immediately entered instrument meteorological conditions. He elected to terminate the flight and began a right turn back toward the departure airport. The pilot stated that he had difficultly maintaining level flight and felt that the helicopter was climbing slightly during the turn. He thought the attitude indicator was giving a false indication because it was not moving and was "cocked off center about 30 degrees." The pilot verified that the circuit breaker for the attitude indicator was not tripped. He saw some ground lighting to the left of the helicopter and started a left turn toward the lights. The pilot remembered seeing two houses before impact and attempted to steer the helicopter between them. Global positioning system (GPS) data showed the helicopter departing to the north, and then it made a climbing right turn, followed by a climbing left turn. The helicopter's maximum recorded altitude during the left turn was about 1,035 feet above ground level (agl). The helicopter impacted two pine trees, utility lines, a residential structure, a tree, and a garage before coming to a stop. The helicopter traveled about 325 feet from the initial contact with the two pine trees to its final position. The local weather conditions were continually broadcast and accessible using a telephone or radio. About one hour before the accident, the airport's AWOS indicated that the sky was overcast at 400 feet agl and the surface visibility was 3 sm with mist. About two minutes after the accident, the airport's AWOS indicated that the sky was overcast at 400 feet agl and the ground visibility was 2 1/2 sm. During the accident flight, the helicopter was operating in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The pilot held an instrument rating, but the accident helicopter was not certified for flight in IMC. According to company documentation, the pilot had logged 26 hours of instrument experience since being hired in 1989. He had flown 13 hours during the prior 90 days, none of which were in IMC. The attitude indicator was bench-tested and no discrepancies were noted with its operation.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control after becoming spatially disorientated shortly after departure. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's inadequate preflight weather evaluation, his inadvertent flight into night instrument meteorological conditions, and the ground objects that the helicopter impacted during the descent.
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