FTW00LA252
FTW00LA252

On September 7, 2000, approximately 1000 central daylight time, a Bell 206L-1 helicopter, N27680, registered to and operated by Horizon Helicopters Inc., of Houston, Texas, was substantially damaged during a forced landing into water following a loss of power. The helicopter was operating over open ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, near Eugene Island oil platform 296B, approximately 100 miles southwest of Houma, Louisiana. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 positioning flight. The helicopter last departed from oil platform, Eugene Island 286I, approximately 0952, and was on final approach to Eugene Island platform 296B when the accident occurred.

According to the operator, the helicopter was scheduled for routine air-taxi operations on the day of the accident. The following is a chronological sequence of events (as reported by the operator) for N27680. All times are in central daylight time.

0630: N27680 is fueled at Abbeville Airport, Abbeville, Louisiana, to an estimated 106 gallons of fuel on board. The refueler at Abbeville stated that the helicopter was "topped off."

0645: Pilot flew two closed traffic patterns at Abbeville to accomplish a routine maintenance check flight due to the installation of a new fuel control. After completion of a successful test flight, the helicopter landed and loaded 2 passengers.

0705: Pilot filed a company flight plan (by radio) to transport the 2 passengers to Eugene Island platform 150.

0732: Pilot called upon landing at Eugene Island 150, dropped off 2 passengers, and picked up 2 other passengers.

0736: Pilot filed a company flight plan to transport 2 passengers to Abbeville.

0804: Pilot called upon landing Abbeville, dropped off 2 passengers, and picked up 4 other passengers.

0811: Pilot filed a company flight plan to transport the 4 passengers to Southmarsh platform 142.

0910: Pilot called upon landing Southmarsh 142, dropped off 2 passengers, and picked up 2 other passengers.

0917: Pilot filed a company flight plan to transport the 4 passengers to Eugene Island platform 309.

0921: Pilot called upon landing Eugene Island 309 and dropped off 4 passengers. Personnel on Eugene Island 309 stated that the helicopter did not shutdown or refuel while on the platform.

Due to the fact that the pilot did not file company flight plans after landing on Eugene Island 309, the following times are estimated by the operator and personnel on various offshore platforms that saw the helicopter that day.

0926: Pilot departed Eugene Island 309.

0934: Pilot landed on Eugene Island oil platform 286I. The operator stated that the pilot most likely landed on 286I to refuel, however, the fuel system on that platform was not turned on at the time. It is unknown whether or not the pilot shut down the helicopter on 286I.

0952: Pilot departed Eugene Island 286I, presumably en route to Eugene Island 296B.

1000: Helicopter lost power on approach to Eugene Island 296B. The pilot autorotated the helicopter and landed hard on the rough/choppy ocean water (skid mounted floats were deployed). The pilot was rescued, but efforts to recover the helicopter failed.

The pilot sustained multiple injuries including a broken back and, to the date of this report, has been hospitalized. The pilot initially stated to rescuers that the helicopter "lost power." He has not been available for an interview since then due to his injuries and hospitalization.

According to the chronological sequence of events, the operator estimated that the helicopter was operated for about 2 hours and 54 minutes after it's initial start up and takeoff from Abbeville. The operator stated that N27680's fuel consumption had historically been about 36-38 gallons per hour during normal flight operations. Using these figures, and estimated gross weights for various known flight segments, the operator stated that the helicopter would have been at or near fuel exhaustion at the time of the reported loss of power. The operator also stated that it is not company policy to fly without filing a company flight plan by radio, and that it was "out of character" for the pilot not to do so. The pilot had no previous history of violating company policies in the past.

The helicopter sank to the bottom of the ocean and has not been recovered, precluding verification of available fuel or examination of aircraft operating systems.

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