NTSB Identification: CEN11FA666
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 23, 2011 in Curren, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/26/2012
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R44, registration: N8324F
Injuries: 2 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 non-instrument-rated pilot and passenger departed on a cross-country trip; there was no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing or filing a flight plan. A witness observed and heard the helicopter flying in and out of low clouds and rain near the tops of trees. Shortly thereafter, he heard noises similar to gunfire, consistent with the helicopter impacting trees. The first identifiable tree strikes were about 500 feet from the main wreckage. Data recovered from a portable global positioning system unit did not show the accident flight; however, the data showed a similar route of flight on multiple previous occasions. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions; the damage was consistent with controlled flight into trees and the ground. Toxicological testing of the pilot revealed the use of multiple drugs that cause sedation, as well as the stimulant cocaine. The multiple sedating medications each have a high likelihood of impairment and their use posed a significant hazard to flight safety.

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

The non-instrument-rated pilot's decision to continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into trees and the ground. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's impairment from multiple drugs.

Full narrative available

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