NTSB Identification: ANC06LA073.
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Accident occurred Thursday, June 22, 2006 in Ponce de Leon, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/25/2007
Aircraft: MBB BK 117A-3, registration: N913EF
Injuries: 1 Minor,2 Uninjured.

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 commercial certificated pilot was transporting two medical crewmembers under Title 14, CFR Part 91, to a prearranged landing site to meet ambulance and fire department personnel caring for a patient. The flight was conducted during dark night conditions. The accident helicopter had predetermined landing site locations stored in its onboard GPS navigation system. The stored landing sites had been previously inspected for obstruction clearance and overall suitability. After arriving overhead of what he thought was a sod-covered field, the pilot used an externally mounted searchlight to aid in seeing the ground and obstructions during the landing approach. As the helicopter approached the open field and transitioned from forward flight to a hover, the pilot encountered blowing, dry sand and dust created by the helicopter's main rotor downwash, which reduced his visibility. He stated he lost all visual reference with the surface of the field, and while attempting to regain a visual reference, the helicopter's main rotor struck a large tree, and the fuselage began to rotate. The helicopter's tail boom assembly subsequently struck the tree, and the helicopter impacted terrain. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the main rotor drive system, tail boom assembly, and fuselage. A postaccident inspection of the landing site disclosed that the sod had recently been removed from the field, leaving a dry, sand-covered field. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical anomalies with the helicopter.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from objects while hovering in ground effect, which resulted in an in-flight collision with a tree. Factors associated with the accident were loose, sand-covered terrain, and the operator's failure to ensure that the pilot was provided with current, off-airport landing site condition information.

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