NTSB Identification: ERA09LA378
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, July 02, 2009 in Loris, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/03/2010
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER AS 350 B2, registration: N53963
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.

The pilot was performing a visual nighttime approach to a hospital heliport to pick up a patient for transport. The pilot flew the final approach west, into the wind. As the helicopter approached the helipad the two onboard clinicians were calling out obstructions, such as trees and light poles. About 5 feet above the helipad the tailrotor struck a short steel pole adjacent to the helipad. The helicopter shuttered and vibrated, but the pilot was able to continue the landing. Although all three crewmembers had been to the heliport before, they forgot about the short steel poles aligned adjacent to the helipad. The recorded weather at an airport approximately 15 miles northeast of the accident site, about the time of the accident, included calm wind, clear skies, and visibility of 10 miles. After the accident, the hospital removed the short steel poles adjacent to the helipad and the Federal Aviation Administration initiated research into the crew training, operations specifications, and the history of the poles being erected near the helipad. Additionally, the operator’s regional safety manager stated that all pilots have begun additional training to position aircraft in such a manner to ensure that all components of the aircraft are clear of all hazards on the periphery or boundaries of marked landing zones/heliports, rather than attempting to place the center of the aircraft at the center of the landing zone/heliport. The operator also initiated a reassessment of hazards at landing zones/heliports within each of their regions’ normal operating area, and reported that the information from the reassessments will be added as part of normal preflight briefings and risk assessments.

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

The crew's failure to see and avoid a steel pole during a nighttime approach to the helipad.

Full narrative available

Index for Jul2009 | Index of months