ANC99LA072
ANC99LA072

On June 9, 1999, about 0740 Alaska daylight time, a skid equipped Bell 206B helicopter, N265AH, sustained substantial damage during takeoff from the Greens Creek Mine, about 20 miles south of Juneau, Alaska. The helicopter was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) on-demand flight under Title 14, CFR Part 135, when the accident occurred. The helicopter is registered to Thunderbird Helicopters, and operated by ERA Aviation, Inc., Anchorage, Alaska. The commercial pilot, and one of the two passengers aboard, received minor injuries. The remaining passenger was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated about 0645 from Juneau.

Two FAA air safety inspectors went to the crash site and inspected the helicopter and conducted witness interviews. According to their written statements, the following occurred: The pilot landed the helicopter on a narrow service road confined to the left-front (of the helicopter) by a radio antennae, on the left by boulders, and on the right by vertical plastic pipes approximately 3 feet tall. The pilot shut down the helicopter, and gave a safety briefing to the two passengers he was picking up. One FAA inspector wrote, "Eyewitness accounts from the ground indicated that the aircraft started up normally and began to lift off, and about 3 feet off the ground the aircraft rolled to the left about 60 to 80 degrees. It appeared that the aircraft pivoted around the boulder to the left of the aircraft. The aircraft righted itself and drifted backward...the witnesses indicated that the aircraft tail rotor struck something, and pieces of the aircraft came off." The inspectors discovered paint transfers on a boulder adjacent to the takeoff site that matched the paint on the left skid's "tundra pad," and they noted a fractured piece of plastic pipe they said was broken by contact with the tail rotor. They indicated the helicopter rolled to the left, downhill from the takeoff site, collided with the ground, and continued downhill about 45 yards, until the helicopter came to rest against a metal building. Portions of the building were struck and penetrated by flying debris from the helicopter.

In the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report, the Director of Safety for the operator indicated the helicopter did not have a preimpact mechanical failure, and in the section, "Recommendation (How Could This Accident Been Prevented) wrote: "Pilot-select an area with less obstructions, i.e., helipad. Pilot-use better technique when lifting to a hover and better situational awareness."

The FAA inspectors who inspected the helicopter stated they discovered no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunction/failure with the helicopter.

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