On November 17, 1999, about 1350 mountain standard time, a Bell 206L-1, N519EH, registered to and operated by Omniflight Helicopters as a 14 CFR Part 135 emergency medical service, collided with a tower during takeoff from Neihart, Montana. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The commercial pilot, medic, nurse, and patient were not injured. The helicopter was substantially damaged. The flight was taking off for the flight to Great Falls, Montana.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that prior to touchdown, he flew over the landing zone to check for hazards and wind direction. The pilot performed the before-landing check and did a power check to make sure that he had 100 percent torque available without exceeding engine and transmission limits. The pilot then landed the helicopter in an open area near ski lift towers. After the patient was loaded and the weight and balance was calculated, the pilot prepared for departure. The pilot reported that, due to trees directly in front of him, he elected to "turn the nose of the helicopter 45 to 50 degrees to the left, hover over to an open area and depart downslope building airspeed and altitude." After the helicopter moved left about 20 to 30 feet, the pilot felt the tail of the helicopter "rotate abruptly left." The pilot applied left pedal which slowed, but did not stop the rotation. The pilot applied cyclic control to return to the landing zone. During the maneuver, the helicopter drifted over to one of the ski lift towers, striking the tail rotor on the tower. The helicopter began to rotate faster to the right and the pilot closed the throttle to the idle position and utilized the collective to cushion the landing.

The helicopter landed hard, collapsing the landing skids. The tail boom bent downward just outboard of the attach fittings. The lower vertical stabilizer contacted the ground and bent to the right. Both tail rotor blades broke near the attach points. One main rotor blade was missing the tip cap from ground contact. The lower vertical stabilizer displayed evidence of contact with an object. The object that the helicopter collided with was the top "bull wheel" of a ski lift tower.

The pilot reported that while he was waiting for company personnel to arrive, he noted that at approximately 10 - 15 minute intervals, the wind gusts would become stronger for a short period of time, then die down. The pilot reported that the wind was from 180 degrees at five knots, with gusts to 15 knots. The pilot also reported that there were no mechanical failures or malfunctions with the helicopter at the time of the accident.

The Federal Aviation Administration inspector from the Helena, Montana, Flight Standards District Office who responded to the accident site documented the helicopter and landing zone (see attached Memorandum). The inspector reported that "I believe the area was adequate for helicopter operations under the general conditions..."

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