On December 31, 2002, approximately 0915 central standard time, a Bell 206-L4 single-engine helicopter, N177AL, was substantially damaged following a loss of control while maneuvering on the offshore platform High Island 471 (HI-471), in the Gulf of Mexico. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the helicopter, was not injured. The helicopter was owned and operated by Air Logistics LLC, of New Iberia, Louisiana. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Regulations Part 91 positioning flight. At the time of the accident, the pilot was attempting to reposition the helicopter on the platform for a subsequent passenger flight.

The pilot stated that on the night prior to the accident, a cold front moved through the area (HI-471) which produced 60 to 80 mph winds. During the night the helicopter was secured to the platform with two forward and two aft fuselage tie downs. At 0630, on the morning of the accident flight, the pilot completed a preflight of the helicopter and noted no discrepancies with the helicopter. Due to the high wind conditions, the pilot elected to delay the flight until the winds subsided.

At 0900, a Bell 407 helicopter landed on the platform to refuel. The accident pilot checked with the Bell 407 pilot regarding the wind conditions, and the Bell 407 pilot reported the winds were at 20 to 25 knots. After the Bell 407 departed the platform, the pilot performed a walk-around inspection and boarded the accident helicopter. After an uneventful engine start, the helicopter lifted off the platform to a 3 to 5-foot hover, and the pilot turned the helicopter 180-degrees into the wind. After a sudden wind gust of approximately 30 knots, the pilot set the helicopter back down onto the platform. The pilot stated the wind gusts subsided to 20 knots, and he attempted to takeoff from the platform again. During the subsequent takeoff, the helicopter "immediately started to bounce uncontrollably and [slide] to the left (south)." The pilot lowered the collective, closed the throttle, and applied the rotor brake. The helicopter came to rest upright on the safety fence of the platform. The pilot reported that at the time of the accident, the wind was from the west-northwest at 20 to 25 knots.

According to the NTSB Pilot/Operator Accident Report (NTSB 6120.1/2), the pilot had accumulated a total of 1,200 hours in rotorcraft, 200 hours in the accident helicopter make and model, and 200 hours in the accident helicopter make and model in the preceeding 90 days.

On January 5, 2003, the helicopter was recovered to the Air Logistics facility in New Iberia for further examination. According to the FAA Airworthiness Inspector who examined the helicopter, the helicopter was partially disassembled to facilitate transport from the platform. The cyclic, collective, and tail rotor controls were checked for rigging and control continuity to the swash plate and the tail rotor drive shaft. The inspector stated no anomalies were noted, and the rigging was within manufacturer's specifications up to the disconnected points. Evidence of contact marks was noted on the upper and lower main rotor transmission support stops. The main rotor mast was bent approximately 3/8 inches, and a rotational mark was noted at a height consistent with the top of the swash plate support. The swash plate support was separated at the lower portion of the support sleeve. The left aft engine mount was found bent.

The tail boom skin was torn approximately 14-inches aft of the tail boom-to-fuselage attach point. The tail boom was bent downward and remained attached by approximately 8 inches of the lower skin, the tail rotor drive shaft and control tubes. No evidence of contact with the main rotor blades or another object was found on the vertical stabilizer or tail boom surfaces.

A review of the maintenance records by the FAA inspector revealed no unusual trends in the maintenance records, and the Airworthiness Directives were in compliance.

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