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On May 2, 1995, at 0653 central daylight time, a Bell 206L-3 helicopter, N347AL, impacted the water following an approach for landing on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The aircraft was destroyed and the pilot and one passenger received serious injuries. The other passenger received fatal injuries. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 135 when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed. The flight departed Venice, Louisiana, at 0633.
According to the pilot and witnesses, the helicopter was in the final stage of approach to Marathon Platform SP86 located 120 degrees at 32 miles from Venice, Louisiana. The pilot added power to come to a hover as he was crossing the platform edge. He said that the engine did not respond to the power demand and the helicopter settled and struck the edge of the platform. The pilot also said that during this time he got a low rotor speed aural warning, but did not get an engine warning.
According to witnesses, as the helicopter descended toward the water, after striking the platform, it rolled inverted. The pilot and one passenger exited the helicopter, which was floating inverted, and were picked up by a boat operating in the vicinity.
The other passenger was found in the helicopter by divers several hours later.
At the time of the accident, the platform had a flare boom in operation to burn off excess gas. This flare boom was located directly upwind from the approach path to the platform landing pad, and persons on the platform said they could feel a considerable increase in temperature as the burned excess gas passed over the platform. (See attached photographs). According to Air Logistics Operations personnel, the normal approach path of the helicopter would cause it to pass through the flare exhaust during the final phase of approach to the platform. Both the company personnel and the engine manufacturers' representative expressed the opinion that performance of both the helicopter rotor system and engine could be adversely affected by the flare exhaust gas.
INJURIES TO PERSONS
The pilot, who occupied the right front seat, and one passenger, who occupied the left front seat, received serious injuries attributed to impact forces. The passenger in the cabin of the helicopter received fatal injuries due to drowning.
During the impact sequence, a portion of the helicopter struck the edge of the platform causing visible damage. (See attached photographs).
The pilot's last date of issue on his certificate was March 17, 1989. He held an airline transport certificate with commercial privileges in rotorcraft - helicopter, and a helicopter instrument certificate. According to FAA records, his other helicopter experience was in the Boeing 107 and Sikorsky S-58.
The pilot's last medical certificate was issued on March 28, 1995. It was a 2nd class certificate with the restriction that the "holder must possess glasses that correct for near vision."
A review of the pilot's records indicate no previous accidents or incidents.
The day prior to the accident the pilot came on duty at 0530, was on duty for 13 hours, and during that duty period flew 1.9 hours in the accident aircraft. He was released from duty at 1830. The accident flight was his first flight of the day and he came on duty at 0530.
For additional pilot information refer to page 3 of this document.
Era Aviation, Inc., provides Gulf of Mexico weather service to the operator. Weather in the gulf in the area where the accident occurred was overcast skies with visibility ranging from 7 to 15 miles, temperatures in the low 70s and winds generally from the north at 11 to 25 knots. Water temperature was not recorded.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Witness marks on the platform edge and witness observations provided evidence that the helicopter struck the platform prior to making an uncontrolled inverted descent to the water beside the platform. The helicopter was later recovered by a work boat. During the recovery, additional damage occurred. (See attached photographs). The helicopter was eventually taken ashore and moved by surface transportation to the operator's maintenance facilities in New Iberia, Louisiana, where an examination of the airframe, drive train, systems, and engine was conducted. The examination provided no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction.
The pilot and front seat passenger remained in their respective seats during the impact sequence. Both seats were equipped with four point restraint devices which remained intact and operable. These persons extracted themselves from the inverted and submerged cockpit.
A determination of the use of seat restraints by the passenger could not be determined. He was briefed and was using the seat restraint on departure. His body was recovered from the cabin area and he was not strapped in at the time of recovery.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
During the examination of the helicopter, the fuel pump, fuel control, governor, bleed valve, and fuel nozzle were tested. All units operated within design parameters.
The wreckage was released to the Director of Safety, Air Logistics, Inc., on May 5, 1995, no parts were retained.