On March 17, 1999, about 1050 Alaska standard time, a high skid equipped Eurocopter AS-350-B2 helicopter, N197EH, sustained substantial damage during landing, about 12 miles south of Girdwood, Alaska. The helicopter was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) on-demand air taxi flight under Title 14, CFR Part 135, when the accident occurred. The helicopter is registered to, and operated by, ERA Aviation, Anchorage, Alaska. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant aboard, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and VFR company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated at the Girdwood Airport about 0810.

During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge on March 17, the pilot reported that the accident helicopter was operating under contract to Chugach Powder Guides to transport skiers to a remote ski area. He added that the day before the accident, the area had received about 6 inches of very light, powder snow. He stated that just before the accident, he transported a group of photographers to the top of the mountain, and he was returning to the base of the mountain to pick up the next group of skiers. He said that as the helicopter hovered toward the landing area, he became disoriented in whiteout conditions, and lost all visual reference due to blowing snow. He said the helicopter drifted to the right, the right skid struck the snow, and the helicopter rolled onto its right side.

The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage, tail boom, and drive train components.

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