NTSB Identification: WPR13FA080
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 02, 2013 in Delano, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/07/2014
Aircraft: BELL 206, registration: N828AC
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 accident helicopter was returning to the airport. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time with increasing fog. The pilot of a second helicopter, who was flying nearby and was in contact with the accident pilot, stated that, before the accident, he saw the accident helicopter make a right turn; he then asked the pilot if she was lost. The accident pilot responded that she thought she was. The second pilot told her to turn left toward the airport. Shortly after, the second pilot observed a fire on the ground and attempted to contact the accident pilot but received no reply. The accident helicopter crashed about 10 miles southeast of the destination airport. Postaccident documentation of the accident site revealed signatures indicative of a steep right turn while impacting vegetation and terrain. Examinations of the helicopter and engine revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The dark night conditions, sparsely lit terrain, and accumulating fog reduced the visual cues available for the pilot to maintain orientation, and, under those conditions, the helicopter's external spotlights, which were on during the accident flight, could have further reduced or provided misleading visual cues. These conditions were conducive to the development of spatial disorientation.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain helicopter control due to spatial disorientation while maneuvering in low visibility, dark night conditions.

Full narrative available

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