NTSB Identification: NYC07FA048.
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Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Thursday, December 14, 2006 in Dagsboro, DE
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/2008
Aircraft: Bell 407, registration: N407JJ
Injuries: 2 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 en route to pick up a passenger for a revenue VFR flight, the helicopter pilot encountered fog. She subsequently diverted from her intended destination and landed in a field. By the time her passenger arrived at the helicopter, darkness had fallen, and dense fog had formed. The pilot and passenger then boarded the helicopter. A witness watched as the helicopter climbed vertically to a height just above the trees to its left and the utility lines to its front, and hovered for a few seconds. While hovering, the landing light of the helicopter cycled on and off two times. The helicopter then pitched nose down and accelerated forward. Instead of climbing, the helicopter accelerated forward in a shallow descent until it impacted the ground. The witness described that the conditions of darkness and fog prevented him from making his way to the accident scene without the aid of a light. Several other witnesses described similar conditions around the time of the accident. Forecasted and actual recorded weather conditions in the area around the time of the accident were consistent with the observations of the witnesses. The ceiling and visibility conditions were significantly worse than the minimum values required by the company's operations specifications. Further review of the operations specifications revealed that the pilot was required to report any changes in her itinerary to the operator. No evidence was found to indicate that the pilot had notified the operator of her initial deviation and subsequent landing in the field, or of her intent to depart from that field after sunset. Additionally, during postaccident interviews the operator could not clearly articulate its actual method for determining whether an aircraft was overdue, since no one individual was charged with that specific duty for operations after normal business hours. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's improper decision to depart under visual flight rules into night instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the fog and the dark night conditions. Full narrative available
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