NTSB Identification: WPR13LA025
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 27, 2012 in Lake Havasu, AZ
Injuries: 2 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 27, 2012, about 1410 mountain standard time, a Robinson R22 Mariner helicopter, N2627M, was substantially damaged when it impacted the surface of Lake Havasu, Arizona, during a photography flight. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries. The business flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no FAA flight plan was filed for the flight.

According to the pilot, the helicopter was temporarily based at Boulder City Municipal Airport (BVU), Boulder City, Nevada. Both the pilot and the passenger were employed by a company based in Florida that photographed boats in motion, and marketed those photographs to the boat operators via its website "Boatpix.com." Typically, the company did not pre-coordinate with the boat operators being photographed; instead the pilots patrol and photographed all operating boats in a given location as targets of opportunity. The typical procedure was to fly low on a path parallel to, and in the same direction as, the target boat, pass the boat, make a 180-degree course reversal degree turn around the bow of the boat, and then proceed to the next boat.

On the day of the accident, the pilot and the photographer flew from Boulder City to Lake Havasu, and photographed boats on the lake. They then landed at Lake Havasu Airport (HII), refueled and ate lunch, and departed on another photographic flight. The pilot was in the left seat, and the photographer was in the right seat. During the right turn for the course reversal, the helicopter climbed to about 50 feet above the water, and then began to descend for a photo pass on the next boat. However, the pilot was unable to arrest the descent, and the helicopter impacted the water, and immediately inverted.

The pilot held a flight instructor certificate for helicopters. He reported that he had a total flight experience of approximately 948 hours, including about 750 hours in the R22. The photographer was also qualified in R-22 helicopters. He reported a total flight experience of approximately 215 hours, including about 205 hours in the R22.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information indicated that the helicopter was manufactured in 1988, and was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series engine. The majority of the helicopter was recovered by a commercial salvor based at Lake Havasu, but the tail boom was not recovered. One pontoon was separated from the helicopter during the accident sequence.

The 1356 automated weather observation at Needles Airport (EED), Needles, California, located about 17 miles northwest of the accident site, included winds from 030 degrees at 15 knots; visibility 10 miles; clear skies; temperature 28 degrees C; dew point minus 8 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of mercury.

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