On August 17, 1999, at 0444 eastern daylight time, a Bell 407, N97SP, operated by the Delaware State Police, was destroyed while returning for landing after takeoff from Sussex County Airport (GED), Georgetown, Delaware. The certificated commercial pilot and the flight observer received minor injuries. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which had departed GED about 1 minute prior to the accident. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot stated:
"...Once the helicopter was in position for departure, we departed RWY 22. I immediately began a climb. As I was passing 250 to 300 feet, I experienced partial white-out conditions. I immediately stated to my partner that we would be turning back. As I began a left turn toward the departure end of the RWY 22, I next recall my partner stating 'Russ the ground'. I immediately pulled the cyclic to the rear while at the same time leveling the aircraft. At that moment, the A/C impacted the ground. After impact, the aircraft continued to slide until coming to rest on its left side. I asked my partner if he was ok at which time he stated that he was. I then shut the throttle and battery off. I also turned off the L/R fuel boost pumps. I then exited the helicopter and assisted my partner in getting out of the A/C...."
In a follow-up interview, the pilot reported that he did not check weather because when he arrived at the airport, the sky was clear, and he could see the stars, and had a ground visibility of about 2 miles. The helicopter was equipped with two landing lights, one on each skid, and a night sun. All three lights were on at takeoff, and remained on until ground impact. While climbing through an altitude of 250 feet to 300 feet, the pilot encountered some low-level scud. He elected to make a descending 180-degree left turn back to the airport. The maneuver was attempted to maintain visual reference with the runway lights. The pilot reported that he lost ground reference in the maneuver and did not re-acquire it until just prior to ground impact.
In addition, the pilot reported that when he drove to the airport, he passed through patches of fog. When he arrived at the airport, visible moisture was adhering to various objects that were outside.
An Inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that after the helicopter struck the ground, the skids separated from the fuselage. The helicopter rolled left and tail boom separated from the fuselage. The main rotor blades made ground contact and were destroyed.
The DELAWARE STATE POLICE, AVIATION SECTION, STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES, were reviewed:
According to page 1-17-1, a pilot-in-command was required to have a commercial pilot certificate as a minimum. In addition, pilots were required to maintain a current class II FAA medical as a minimum. According to pilot records from the FAA, the pilot last received a first class FAA airman medical certificate on April 1, 1998. According to 14 CFR Part 61.23, a first or second medical certificate used in an operation that required a commercial pilot certificate would expire in the 12th month after issuance.
According to page 1-22-1, the weather minimums required for a night local flight (in state) with a pilot who holds an instrument rating was 800 feet and 2 statute miles visibility.
Weather observations at GED revealed:
0354 Winds calm, visibility 2 sm, mist, ceiling 100 feet broken, 700 feet overcast, temperature 22C, dewpoint 21C.
0454 Winds calm, visibility 2 1/2 sm, mist, ceiling 100 feet overcast, temperature 22C, dewpoint 21C.
0513 Winds from 220 degrees, at 4 knots, visibility 1 1/2 sm, mist, ceiling 100 feet overcast, temperature 22C, dewpoint 22C.
A check of weather condition at Salisbury, Maryland (SBY) to the south, and Dover, Delaware (DOV) to the north, revealed similar conditions.
The pilot reported that he also flew in the military reserves and had passed a rotorcraft instrument flight check in June 1999.