NTSB Identification: WPR09LA125
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 22, 2009 in Cave Creek, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/12/2009
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER AS 350 B2, registration: N353P
Injuries: 3 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.
During a night time positioning flight to a traffic accident to pick up a patient, the pilot obtained landing zone information by radio from first responders. The first responders informed the pilot that there were numerous obstructions surrounding the dirt parking lot landing zone. The pilot performed an aerial reconnaissance of the parking lot to visually identify obstacles and asked ground personnel if the landing area had been watered down. The ground personnel replied that the landing area was not wetted down; however, it "looked damp." The pilot proceeded to initiate his approach to the dirt parking lot and observed dust starting to circulate around the helicopter. Shortly after, the pilot encountered a brownout about 15 to 20 feet above ground level (agl). He then reduced power in an effort to land quicker and reduce the dust volume. As the helicopter descended through about 10 feet agl, the pilot lost visual reference through his night vision goggles due to lights from adjacent emergency service vehicles. The pilot attempted to look outside through the windows underneath his NVGs as he slightly adjusted the collective. Subsequently, the helicopter landed hard, adjacent to an office building and fire truck, forward and to the left of the pilot's original intended landing area. Examination of the helicopter revealed that the tail boom and fuselage were structurally damaged.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's misjudged landing flare. Contributing to the accident was the brownout condition created by the dust cloud that interfered with the pilot's perception of proximity to the ground, and the glare interference from the parked fire vehicles headlights with the pilot's night vision goggles. Full narrative available
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