NTSB Identification: CEN11FA468
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 09, 2011 in Rising Sun, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/07/2014
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N42333
Injuries: 1 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.

The noninstrument-rated pilot contacted approach control and requested clearance through class B airspace with visual flight rules (VFR) radar service to his destination. About 7 minutes later, the pilot reported that he needed to descend because he was “getting into too many clouds." The approach controller approved the VFR descent and instructed the pilot to maintain VFR at or below 2,000 feet. About 6 minutes later, radar data were lost. Recorded radar track data indicated that the helicopter was on a northwest heading and then turned west, that the helicopter's altitude varied between 1,100 to 1,300 feet above ground level, and that the helicopter appeared to be in a right turn before impact. The helicopter impacted trees near the top of a ridgeline located about 0.3 mile west of the Ohio River at an elevation of about 700 feet. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, located about 13 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, reported 4 miles visibility, haze, and scattered clouds at 1,100 feet. Witnesses reported dense ground fog along the river and on the ridgeline near the accident site at the time of the accident. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Based on the pilot’s inexperience, the radar data, and the reduced visibility at the time of the accident, it is likely that the he experienced spatial disorientation, which led to his failure to maintain clearance from the terrain.

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

The noninstrument-rated pilot's decision to continue the visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in his spatial disorientation and failure to maintain clearance from terrain.

Full narrative available

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