NTSB Identification: LAX06CA180.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, May 23, 2006 in Soledad, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/03/2006
Aircraft: Bell 47-G5, registration: N4741R
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The helicopter crashed in a field following a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. The pilot performed a preflight and checked the fuel quantity prior to departure. The level in the tank was approximately 1 inch below the cap. The pilot left the operator's facility approximately 0525. From 0525 to 0715 he sprayed 14 loads on various fields, totaling approximately 99 minutes of flight. As the pilot was flying to his next job, the engine lost power, about 0720. At this point, the helicopter's fuel gauges read about 1/4 full and he assumed that he had 10-15 minutes of fuel remaining. When the engine lost power he lowered the collective and turned into the wind, then the helicopter impacted the ground. The pilot stated that the helicopter and engine had no mechanical failures or malfunctions during the flight. The operator said the helicopter has an engine that burns about 16 gallons of fuel per hour. It also has a capacity of 28 gallons of usable fuel, which equates to approximately 105 minutes of fuel. According to the pilot's statement he flew about 99 minutes. The operator said that with the fuel down about an inch when the pilot started, fuel exhaustion was inevitable. The pilot was instructed to refuel every hour or every 10 loads. Each load takes approximately 6 minutes.

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

fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inaccurate fuel consumption calculations and failure to refuel the helicopter which resulted in a loss of engine power.

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