NTSB Identification: ANC06TA047.
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Accident occurred Friday, April 21, 2006 in Nikiski, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/25/2007
Aircraft: American Eurocopter AS350 B3, registration: N911AA
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.
The airline transport certificated pilot was transporting an Alaska State Trooper, and a rescue volunteer with their equipment, to a remote lodge to search for a missing person. The flight was conducted during dark night conditions, and the pilot was using night vision goggles (NVG) to help discern topographical features on the snow-covered terrain. After an uneventful outbound flight to the lodge, the pilot landed the helicopter on a frozen lake adjacent to the lodge. During an hour-long search of the lodge and surrounding outbuildings, snow fell, with a light accumulation on the frozen lake where the accident helicopter was parked. Unable to locate the missing person, the search team boarded the helicopter for the return flight, and the pilot donned his NVGs. Just after takeoff, as the helicopter transitioned from a hover to forward flight, blowing snow from the helicopter's main rotor momentarily reduced the pilot's visibility, and he lost all visual reference with the surface of the frozen lake. While he was attempting to regain a visual reference, the helicopter's tail rotor guard and vertical stabilizer struck the surface of the lake, and he elected to abort the takeoff. The helicopter's skids subsequently struck the surface of the ice, and the helicopter bounced several times before stopping. A postaccident inspection revealed substantial damage to the helicopter's vertical stabilizer, tail boom assembly, and fuselage. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical anomalies with the helicopter, and that he had not received any formal training in the use of NVG's.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's failure to maintain adequate altitude/clearance from terrain during an aborted takeoff in whiteout conditions, which resulted in an in-flight collision with terrain. A factor associated with the accident was whiteout conditions.
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