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On March 8, 2002, at 2000 eastern standard time, a Eurocopter A355F1, N355D, registered to and operated by SK Logistics, Inc., ditched 35 miles off the coast of Georgia in the Atlantic Ocean while maneuvering for an approach to an offshore platform. The chartered flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR 135 with a defense visual flight rules flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The helicopter was substantially damaged. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries, and subsequently died of drowning. The flight originated from Savannah, Georgia, at 1759.
At 1458, the pilot left the offshore platform R5 to refuel in Savannah. The pilot took on 96 gallons of fuel; he then departed at 1534 back to the R5 platform. At 1553, the pilot landed on the R5 platform.
At 1558, the pilot departed the R5 platform enroute to M1, R2 and M2 platform then back to Savannah at 1648. At 1712, he landed in Savannah took on 90 gallons of fuel and picked up passengers . At 1759, the pilot headed back to the M2 platform with his passengers. At this time the pilot made stops at R2 and R5. At 1953, the pilot departed the R5 platform to head back to the R2 platform with one passenger. While approaching the R2 platform the helicopter ditched into the Atlantic Ocean in approximately 87 feet of water.
The witness stated the pilot was enroute from the R5 to the R2 platform. The pilot radioed that he was approaching the R2 platform. According to the witness, this procedure was normal for the pilot when he was approximately 1 to 2 miles from the platform he was landing on. When she arrived outside on the platform, she saw the white landing light of the helicopter. As the helicopter approached the platform, "it just dropped into the water" as, stated by the witness. About a minute after seeing the light, the witness stated that she saw the light glowing under the water. The witness went back inside and radioed home base and told them that she believed the helicopter had gone into the water. When she returned to the platform, she heard the pilot yelling for help and threw him a life preserver. The pilot put on the life preserver and waited for rescuers. The pilot was picked up by the coast guard and transported to a hospital. The passenger was not located until the following day.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a single-engine land, multi-engine land, and helicopter ratings. The pilot's total flight time was approximately 3900 hours. The pilot completed his biennial flight review in the Augusta A109. He held a second-class medical certificate, dated March 27, 2001 with no limitations or waivers.
The helicopter was equipped with two Allison C20F turbo-shaft engines. The left engine had a total time of 6703 hours, and 45 hours since the last inspection. The left engine accumulated 2343 hours since its last overhaul. The right engine had a total time of 6722 hours, and 45 hours since the last inspection. The right engine has accumulated 944 since the last overhaul. The helicopters last inspection was a 100-hour inspection. The inspection was preformed on January 4, 2002. The Helicopter had a total time of 7205 hours.
The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Savannah, Georgia. The 1953 surface weather observation was: clear, visibility 10 miles, temperature 18 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 16 degrees Celsius, wind 080 degrees at 3 knots, and altimeter 30.30 inches.
Review of the sun and moon data obtained on March 8, 2002, at 2000 eastern standard time, revealed the sunset at 1827, and the end of civil twilight was at 1851. The moon illumination was 21 percent.
The R2 Platform was located approximately 35 miles off the coast of Savannah. The main deck is 71 feet above sea level. The helicopter landing area is 43 feet long by 43 feet wide. The platform was not equipped with lights for night operation.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The helicopter collided with the Atlantic Ocean while descending approximately 35 miles east of Brunswick, Georgia. The accident site was located approximately 220-degrees southwest of the R2 microwave platform, and the helicopter came to rest 87 feet below the surface on the ocean floor.
After the helicopter was recovered, examination of the wreckage revealed the lower portion of the canopy nose was compressed aft, and the left and right chin windows separated. The pilot door post separated from the canopy roof, and the canopy structure under the pilot's chin window was missing. The right center belly faring sustained compression damage, and the landing and taxi light were broken. The forward and aft fuel tanks were not ruptured. No fuel was present in forward fuel tank and it was full of seawater. Several gallons of seawater and approximately 1 gallon jet fuel was recovered from the aft fuel tank. The left and right skid tubes along with the cross tubes were not damaged. Examination of the emergency flotation device revealed that they were not deployed. After recovery the emergency floatation device was manually deployed, and operated accordingly. Examination of the emergency inflation cylinder revealed it was removed and replaced in accordance with the manufacturers supplemental type certificate, with no defects noted. The left and right forward transmission support bars were separated and the transmission was displaced aft. The transmission deck was not damaged. The aft fuselage section was not damaged and no buckling was present at the tail boom junction.
Examination of the main rotor head revealed no damage to the frequency adapters. The blue start flex arm was broken during recovery. All main rotor blades were attached to the appropriate main rotor sleeve. The main rotor sleeves were attached to the spherical stops and the spherical stops were not damaged. All main rotor pitch change links were attached to the appropriate pitch horn, and swash plate assembly with the cotter keys and safety wire intact.
Examination of the inboard leading edge of the blue main rotor revealed delamination. Two cracks were present on the lower surface of the blue main rotor blade root. The yellow main rotor blade sustained chord wise scratching on the lower surface, 3 inches inboard of the main rotor blade tip. The red main rotor blade sustained minor damage to the outboard trailing edge tip of the lower surface.
Examination of the main transmission case revealed that it dissolved and all internal gears and bearings were exposed. The upper and lower level reduction gear bearing could be rotated by hand. The gearbox case was dissolved and the internal gears and bearings were exposed. The engine to main gearbox drive shaft sustained corrosion damage. The drive shaft could not be rotated by hand. The tail boom was separated 14 inches aft of the horizontal stabilizer during recovery. The 90-degree magnetic pick-up plug was free of metallic particles. The tail rotor drive shaft output coupling sustained corrosion damage.
Examination of the fuel system revealed, the high-pressure fuel filters were removed on the left and right engines. Approximately a teaspoon of fuel was present in both filters. The left and right fuel nozzle pressure lines were removed and no fuel was present. Both fuel lines from the left and right engine fuel supply inlet line to the engine driven fuel pump were removed, and no fuel was present. The fuel outlet lines from the fuel control to the fuel nozzle check valves on the left and right engine were removed and no fuel was present.
The Rolls-Royce Allison engines were sent to Rolls Royce for the examination. There were no mechanical failures noted during the examination for the number one engine or the number two engines. There were no flight control or mechanical malfunctions noted or reported before the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Chandler Hospital, Savannah, Georgia, preformed the postmortem examination of the commercial pilot on March 8, 2002. The cause of death was drowning. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, drugs and alcohol.
Chandler Hospital, Savannah, Georgia, preformed the postmortem examination of the passenger on March 8, 2002. The cause of death was drowning.
Engine teardown examination was conducted on May 8, 2002 at the Rolls Royce facility. Examination of both number one and two engines revealed no mechanical failures. Examination of the engines revealed N1 and N2 drive train had mechanical continuity. All gears and bearings were intact on both engines. The engines did not display any rotational signatures. The engines shafting was found intact. The engine controls for both engines where found in there respective positions
According to SK Logistics Incorporated, flight operations were conducted in accordance with contract 1406-01-80-2134, of the Department of Interior. Section B2.3.5 states: Helicopters shall be limited to flight during daylight hours and under VFR conditions only. Daylight hours are defined as from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. SK logistics, Incorporated was not under contract with the Department of the interior.
The helicopter wreckage was released on August 28, 2002 to an insurance adjuster with Leading Edge Investigation.