NTSB Identification: WPR14LA160
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Friday, April 04, 2014 in Astoria, OR
Aircraft: AGUSTAWESTLAND SPA AW109SP, registration: N361CR
Injuries: 1 Serious,3 Uninjured.

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 April 4, 2014, about 2345 Pacific daylight time, a ship pilot was seriously injured when he was being transferred via external sling from an Agusta A-109SP helicopter, N361CR, to a container ship which was inbound to the Columbia River mouth near Astoria, Oregon. The helicopter was operated by Brim Aviation, and the ship pilot was a member of the Columbia Bar Pilot's Association. Neither the helicopter nor the ship was damaged, and none of the three helicopter crewmembers were injured. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133. Light rain and night meteorological conditions prevailed, and no FAA flight plan was filed for the flight.

The helicopter crew consisted of three persons; the pilot, the co-pilot, and the hoist operator. According to the crewmembers, they intercepted the ship when it was in the Pacific Ocean, about 15 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River, with the mission to deliver the ship pilot onto the ship while the ship was underway. When the helicopter arrived at the ship, the crew spent several minutes attempting to determine a suitable location to deposit the ship pilot. They eventually agreed that a small open area near the starboard bow would be used. When the helicopter was established in a stationary position relative to the ship for the lowering, the helicopter pilot could only see a small portion of the ship for his reference and station-keeping. Just as the ship pilot touched down on the deck of the ship, the helicopter pilot lost visual reference with the ship, and the helicopter began "drifting" aft relative to the ship. The hoist operator could not pay out cable fast enough to prevent pulling the ship pilot off the deck and then aft. The hoist operator lost sight of the ship pilot, and in response, he sheared the hoist cable. The ship captain fell a few feet to the ship. He recovered from the fall, and successfully piloted the ship thorough the Columbia River mouth to its destination. Upon disembarkation, he went directly to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured scapula.

The helicopter pilot had about 5,655 total hours of helicopter flight experience, including about 555 in the subject helicopter make and model, and 396 hours at night. The helicopter co-pilot had about 7,115 total hours of helicopter flight experience, including about 593 hours at night. The hoist operator was a former US Coast Guard hoist operator. In his written statement regarding the event, the ship pilot "credit[ed] the experience and professionalism of the hoist operator" in preventing a more serious and adverse outcome.

According to a report provided by representatives of the ship pilot, the ship was German-registered, and measured about 730 feet long by 100 feet wide. At the time of the event, the ship was on a heading of 150 degrees, at a speed of 17 knots. According to the operator and representatives of the ship pilot, visibility was about 10 miles, under an overcast of unspecified height. Rain was falling, and the wind was from the south-southwest at a speed of about 15 knots, which resulted in a wind on the starboard bow of the ship.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information indicated that the helicopter was manufactured in 2011, and was equipped with two Pratt & Whitney 207C series turboshaft engines.

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