NTSB Identification: ERA11LA106
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 29, 2010 in Cherry Point, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/07/2011
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER MBB-BK, registration: N854EC
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 conducting a night emergency medical services flight with no patient on board. When the helicopter was about 12 miles south of the airport, he radioed air traffic control (ATC) and declared an emergency, due to a personal medical incapacitation. He requested a vector to a nearby airport and in response, the controller provided him with a position report and began giving him vectors. Subsequently, the pilot overflew the airport and was then given a vector back to the airport. The pilot landed on a runway at the airport with assistance on the flight controls by a flight nurse seated in the front seat. During the landing the helicopter bounced and experienced a hard landing. The helicopter was examined by personnel at the helicopter's manufacturer which revealed substantial damage to the structure.
Postaccident interviews with the pilot revealed that while in cruise flight, and shortly after he disengaged the autopilot, his right arm fell to his side. Medical records of the pilot’s treatment following the accident documented the sudden onset of right hand weakness and slurred speech while piloting the helicopter, with the subsequent identification of two recent strokes on an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical records documented that the pilot also had experienced a small stroke approximately 4 years prior to the accident. There was no evidence in the FAA records of any formal evaluation of the risk of a recurrent stroke for this pilot or of any formal FAA neurology evaluation. The pilot's records did reflect that no definitive cause for a previous stroke was found, that the pilot had a family history of stroke, that the pilot was increasingly obese, and that the pilot’s physician had discontinued a medication prescribed in part to reduce the pilot’s risk of a future stroke.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's impairment during cruise flight due to a recurring stroke. Contributing to the accident was the Federal Aviation Administration's inadequate oversight of the pilot's known medical condition. Full narrative available
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