FTW98LA033
FTW98LA033

On October 28, 1997, approximately 1012 mountain standard time, an Aerospatiale SA316B, Canadian registry C-FPWH, operated by Turbowest Helicopters, Ltd., of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain while approaching a hover 10 miles northwest of Counselor, New Mexico. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant aboard, sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the nonscheduled domestic cargo air taxi flight being conducted under 14 CFR Part 133. The flight originated at a staging area about a mile away just minutes before the accident.

According to the pilot's accident report, he was being trained in the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation for deploying and retrieving seismic equipment. A long line was being used to sling the equipment to drilling sites. The pilot descended into a canyon towards the next drop site. He said he lowered collective slightly and established a 200 fpm (feet per minute) descent rate. He "immediately got an uncomfortable feeling about the situation." He decided to abort the approach and try a longer, more shallow approach into the canyon. He pushed forward slightly on the cyclic and increased collective to initiate a climb. The helicopter shuddered and the rate of descent increased. The pilot said he realized the helicopter had encountered its on downwash and was "settling with power." He lowered collective and pushed forward on the cyclic. The helicopter struck the ground, bounced slightly to the left, and spun around. The pilot said the wind was light and variable.

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