On November 13, 2000, at 2048 hours Pacific standard time, a Messershmitt-Boelkow-Blohm BO-105CBS-5, N911VH, collided with the ground during an aborted landing at Parumph, Nevada. The helicopter, operated by Metro Aviation, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana, under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 135 as an on-demand medical evacuation flight, sustained substantial damage. The commercial pilot, a paramedic, and a flight nurse were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight and a company visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from the Pahrump hospital at 2045, and was scheduled to terminate at Valley Medical Center in Las Vegas. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The helicopter was attempting to pickup a patient at a remote site. Ground personnel had established a landing site on a rural road and illuminated the site by headlights from an ambulance. Ground personnel informed the helicopter crew by radio that there was no wind and no wires obstructing the site.
In the pilot's written statement to the Safety Board, he stated that a call was received over Pahrump fire radio dispatch to put flights on standby for a suspected patient overdose. The flight crew asked if the patient was going to be transported to the Pahrump helipad, and were told no, they were to pickup the patient on scene. The pilot obtained directions to the landing zone and the call signs for the medic units already on scene. Prior to arrival he asked the flight medic to ask the ground units about wires in the area of the landing zone. The ground unit informed the pilot to "land on the east side of the ambulance, winds were negligible, and no wires." As they got closer to the scene, the pilot observed the flashing lights of the ambulance and continued to the landing zone. Prior to landing, the pilot conducted a 270-degree turn high reconnaissance of the area, with the searchlights on. He stated that during the slow pass east-northeast about 300-400 feet over the landing zone, he was able to see the landing zone out of the right door. He stated that he decided to land to the west facing the ambulance.
The pilot stated that he slowed the helicopter down to effective translational lift (ETL), and made a slow right turn to line up on the landing zone to start the low reconnaissance. During the descent he noted at his 1 o'clock position a vehicle moving into the landing zone area. He immediately applied collective pitch and made a right turn to perform a go-around. He saw wires about 10-15 feet below and to the front of the helicopter spanning from his 8 o'clock to 2 o'clock position. He applied power and aft cyclic to climb. The pilot reported that the helicopter seemed "sluggish;" however, he continued with the right turn to keep the power lines in his field of view. He believed he was too close to the wires to make it over them and decided to fly underneath them. The pilot thought that ground impact was imminent and he reduced as much of the remaining airspeed as he could and leveled off the helicopter prior to impact. The helicopter landed on the right front skid tube and rolled to the right.
Valley Flight for Life has landing zone preparation guidelines for ground personnel. For night landings, one flare or flashing beacon should be placed on each corner of a 75- by 75-foot landing zone.
In the pilot's written statement to the Safety Board on the flight time matrix, he indicated that he had 0.2 hours of flight in make/model and night flight in the past 24 hours. His total time in the make/model was 28 hours, with 20 hours in the past 30 days, and 2.2 hours of night flight.
Review of the Federal Aviation Administration Airman Certification records disclosed that the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for helicopter and helicopter instrument. The most recent second-class medical was issued on May 16, 2000, with no restrictions. On June 7, 2000, the pilot was given a competency and flight check in accordance with Metro Aviation, Inc., qualification requirements. No discrepancies were noted with either the competency or flight check.
All witness information was obtained from the Nye County Sheriff's Office, who conducted the one-on-one interviews. The responding officer also created a diagram (attached to report) with measured distances of the landing zone to the intersection, position of vehicle, and distances from the landing zone to the accident site.
A Pahrump Fire Fighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), who set up the landing zone at the cross section of Haffen Ranch Road and Mary Lou, stated that the helicopter was to land east of the ambulance. Once the landing zone was established a vehicle drove onto Mary Lou from the east in a westbound direction. The EMT stopped the vehicle about 200 feet from the landing zone.
He stated that there was a request from the pilot to move the vehicle. While the EMT was relaying the request to the driver of the vehicle, he observed the helicopter make a hard turn to the east from its current position, now facing south. He saw the helicopter gain altitude during the turn and then dropping "past the homes towards the power lines" and then he lost sight of it. The EMT stated that he saw the helicopter come back into his sight and then drop back out of sight again. He then heard the crash and saw dirt and debris flying upward into the air.
During a subsequent interview with a Nye County Sheriff's deputy, the EMT was asked how large the landing zone was, and where the vehicle was in relation to the landing zone. He stated that the landing zone was an area of about 204 feet, and that the car was outside the landing zone area. He also stated that he did not feel that the vehicle had entered into the safety zone and did not call for an abort. The EMT stated that they try and give the helicopter about 100 feet to land in, with at least 32 feet circumferentially.
The second ambulance driver was in his ambulance at the other end of the landing zone. He observed the first ambulance driver and the vehicle. He then saw the helicopter come over the tops of the houses, and then saw it go up and out of view. A short time later he heard a crashing sound and saw dust flying.
A deputy on the way to the scene observed the helicopter flying in a westward direction with the nose facing downward and the tail moving from side to side. He stated that he saw the helicopter descending at a ". . . high rate of speed . . . ." and then a cloud of dust.
The driver of the vehicle stated that she was on her way to the patient's house because it was her mother. She stated that she had stopped to pickup her daughter prior to going to her mother's house. When she made the turn onto Mary Lou, she saw a man in the street and stopped the car. When the man approached her car he was talking on a portable radio and informed her that she may have to move. The driver reported that she waited for further instructions and could hear the helicopter overhead, and then heard it crash. She stated that she did not see the accident sequence. The daughter confirmed what her mother had said.