LAX02LA178
LAX02LA178

On May 28, 2002, approximately 1045 mountain standard time, a Bell 206L-1, N1075S, registered to Monarch Enterprises, Inc., of Kirkland, Washington, and operated by Papillon Airways, Inc., doing business as Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, of Meadview, Arizona, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while on landing approach in the Grand Canyon approximately 15 miles east of Meadview. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant aboard, received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the positioning flight being operated under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at a nearby landing zone approximately 1120.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the accident occurred on the third flight of the day. The helicopter had been operating as a nonscheduled domestic passenger flight. "Papon 10" transported three passengers to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and returned. Two more passengers were then transported to the bottom of the Canyon, and the original three passengers boarded and were brought back. The helicopter returned to get the other two passengers. On its landing approach, the helicopter struck a hillside, bounced on its skids for 60 feet and cartwheeled, coming to rest on its left side. The pilot was able to evacuate the helicopter on his own. When the inspector later interviewed the pilot at the hospital, he had no recollection as to what had happened. He said that prior to impact, the helicopter was operating normally. The FAA inspector said he found no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

Several witnesses submitted written statements. One witness said the helicopter descended along the canyon wall at an altitude of 40 to 50 feet, and slowed its descent as it made a course reversal towards the landing zone. The nose "dipped," then rose, and the tail boom struck the ground and separated. The helicopter then began to "spin out of control." Another witness saw the helicopter "twisting in a horizontal plane, i.e. the tail swinging from side to side" just before impact. A third witness, a helicopter pilot, said the wind was light and variable as he heard rotor blade "slap," and knew the helicopter was in a turn. He then heard the sound of impact. The company's loader reported that the tail boom struck "a small incline of a hill." The witness added that there was no change in the engine or rotor sounds.

The pilot was involved in a similar accident on December 7, 2000, near Henderson, Nevada, (LAX01-L-A061). According to the FAA inspector who was aboard the helicopter and monitoring a check ride being administered to the pilot, he misjudged his height above the ground during a pinnacle approach and collided with terrain.

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