On November 7, 1993, about 0145 hours Greenwich mean time (GMT), a Hughes 369D helicopter, N5172K, crashed about 375 miles northeast of Madang, Papua New Guinea, in the Bismarck Sea. The helicopter was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) local area fish spotting flight when the accident occurred. The helicopter, registered to the Laura Z Fishing Co. Inc., Saipan, and operated by Big Eye Helicopters, Guam, is presumed to be destroyed. The certificated commercial pilot and a crew member are presumed to have received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight departed the fishing vessel Laura Z about 0012 hours GMT.

The captain of the Laura Z reported the accident to the U.S. Coast Guard, Guam. The aircraft departed the vessel on a fish spotting flight and was being tracked on the ship's radar. At 0145 hours, the helicopter was about 27.5 miles from the ship on a 322 degree magnetic bearing when the radar return from the aircraft disappeared. There were no radio communications from the helicopter. The ship proceeded to the last known position, arriving at 0310 hours GMT. The ship dropped a radio marking buoy at the accident site located at latitude 03 degrees, 32.65 minutes south, and longitude 149 degrees, 34.05 degrees east.

The helicopter was equipped with fixed style floats. A search of the area revealed floating debris, fragments of the helicopter's floats, and personal items. The operator reported that a subsequent search of the area involving two additional vessels over the following two and one-half days failed to locate the crew.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rotorcraft helicopter rating. In addition, the pilot held a mechanics certificate with an airframe and powerplant ratings. The most recent second class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on May 14, 1993, and contained no limitations.

No personal flight records were located for the pilot. According to the pilot/operator report submitted by the operator, the pilot's total aeronautical experience consisted of about 3,600 hours, of which 1,000 were accrued in the accident aircraft make and model. The pilot's flight time was based on an employment application from June 20, 1991.

In the pilot/operator report and in a computerized component status report, the operator indicated that the helicopter had accumulated a total time in service of 8,544.2 flight hours. In addition, a 100-hour inspection was conducted on July 26, 1993. The report indicates that the helicopter had accrued one hour since the 100-hour inspection. The engine had accrued 5,143.6 hours.

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