NTSB Identification: LAX08FA233
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 19, 2008 in Price, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/29/2009
Aircraft: HUGHES 369D, registration: N400BE
Injuries: 3 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.

Prior to departure, the helicopter was refueled, a child passenger was replaced with an adult, and additional baggage (exact weight unknown) was added. While fueling, the pilot had a discussion with another pilot stating that the conditions at the airport may make the departure more difficult. The helicopter was observed taking off to the south and then making a right turn towards the northwest. As the helicopter approached the perimeter fence of the airport it was observed to be descending. The accident site was located about .5 nm from the last observed position. The first identified point of impact appeared to be where the left skid tube hit the ground. The ground scar was not in line with the direction of the debris energy path, but was about 270 degrees to the right. The on-scene examination of the accident site indicated that the helicopter first impacted the ground with its left skid, in a more vertical than horizontal vector. The main rotor blades displayed low rotor damage signatures. At the time of the accident the density altitude was computed to be 9,330 feet mean sea level (msl), and the pressure altitude was computed to be 5,827 feet msl. A conservative weight of the helicopter was calculated to be approximately 2,823 pounds. The helicopter’s certified gross weight is 3,000 pounds. The calculated hover performance in ground effect (HIGE) was determined to be at least 63 pounds over the performance capabilities of the helicopter. The calculated hover performance out of ground effect (HOGE) was determined to be at least 223 pounds over the performance capabilities of the helicopter. Witnesses reported the winds at the time of the accident as 10 knots out of the south. Post accident examination of the airframe and engine components found no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

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

The pilot's inadequate preflight performance planning for the takeoff and the loading that exceeded the lift performance capability of the helicopter.

Full narrative available

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