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On August 18, 2005, approximately 1410 central daylight time, a single-engine Bell 206B helicopter, N167H, was destroyed when it collided with an oil platform and ocean water, following a loss of power while attempting to land on offshore oil platform, West Cameron (WC) 560 located in the Gulf of Mexico. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Air Logistics, LLC of New Iberia, Louisiana. The commercial pilot and mechanic sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 91 positioning flight. The local flight originated from a nearby platform, WC 645 at 1359.
The initial flight originated from the operator's base in Creole, Louisiana, at 0705 with three passengers and WC 645 as their destination. The accident pilot was then scheduled to fly over to WC 560 for refueling. Prior to departure from Creole, the helicopter was serviced with 50 gallons of fuel (approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes flying time with no reserve). En-route to WC 645 the pilot, followed the company's flight-following procedures and reported "landing" at 0829. After landing it was reported, that oil was observed on the side of the fuselage and the pilot could not see any indication of the transmission oil level. A second helicopter was dispatched from Creole to WC 645 with remaining cargo for the three passengers, and a mechanic for N167H. The mechanic determined that N167H's transmission had been "over-serviced" and residual oil caused the oil streaking on the side of the helicopter. The accident pilot informed the mechanic that he did not have fuel for a 30-60 minute maintenance ground run. The mechanic informed the accident pilot that they could do about a 5-minute run and then do about a 5-minute hover after the engine cowlings were in place. The pilot who brought out the mechanic, offered to get fuel for them; however, the accident pilot declined the offer, stating that he "could do this without any problems". Since WC 645 helicopter platform allows for only one helicopter to run at a time, the second helicopter departed back to Creole at 1313, leaving the accident pilot and mechanic to complete their engine run and flight over to WC 560. The pilot of N167H reported his departure from WC 645 en-route to WC 560, at 1359 and then reported "landing" at 1410.
There were two witnesses on the offshore platform at the time of the accident. They reported that as the helicopter approached the platform from the south, it made "some strange turns left and right" before "it straightened up and headed to the heliport". The witnesses stated that right before the helicopter reached the platform, it "sounded like it lost power and started dropping rapidly." The witnesses lost sight of the helicopter as it descended. They then heard the helicopter contact the oil platform and fall into the water. The emergency floats did not deploy and the helicopter sank quickly.
The pilot held commercial rotorcraft and flight instructor certificates, with ratings for helicopter instrument. The pilot was issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate on October 19, 2004. At that time, he reported 1,755-hours of flight time. The pilot was hired by Air Logistics on May 18, 2005, and had successfully completed the company's new hire (pilot flight) program. A review of the company's records revealed the pilot had accumulated 182 hours in the Bell 206, and a total time of 1,936 hours.
The helicopter was a Bell model 206B, configured for a maximum of five occupants and was powered by an Allison (Rolls-Royce) 250 series turbo-shaft engine. The helicopter had a standard fuel tank capacity of 76-gallons useable, and 1.5 gallons unusable fuel. Additionally, the helicopter's fuel quantity indicating system was of the "float-type" arrangement. According to data provided by personnel familiar with this helicopter, a fuel burn rate of about 27-28 gallons per hour is normal. The helicopter had accumulated approximately 13,992-hours on the airframe, and 9,997 total hours on the engine. The helicopter was maintained by the operator on an Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP). A "Phase 6" inspection had been completed prior to the accident flight.
A weather reporting station was not available at WC 560; however, weather in the general area was reported as visual meteorological conditions, with light winds.
The pilot was not in communication with air traffic control during the flight. Radio calls to the operator's flight-following controllers were reported as routine. No distress calls were received from the aircraft prior to the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the oil platform WC 560, and photographs provided by the operator revealed the helicopter's main rotor blade contacted a hand railing approximately 35 feet below the helideck and approximately 76 feet above the water.
The helicopter was located and was retrieved from approximately 190 feet of water and transported to the operator's maintenance facilities in New Iberia, Louisiana, the day following the accident.
Examination of the helicopter revealed that the landing skid had been removed, in order to transport the helicopter. The fuselage received heavy impact damage to its left side and both the left and right side windshields were broken-out. The cabin floor just aft of the front seats, was ripped perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the helicopter, almost severing the helicopter in two. The rear-aft fuselage, near the fuel tank was crushed up and in toward the fuel tank. The fuel tank and bladder had been breached by the impact. Yellow paint transfer to the outboard section of the main rotor blade was consistent with paint on the oil platform's hand railing. The helicopter's left horizontal stabilizer was buckled and bent in an upward direction. One of the tail rotor blades was found bent approximately 45 degrees to its plane of rotation.
An inspection of the cockpit area revealed the pilot's seat and shoulder belts were fastened, and the passenger's seat and shoulder belts were unfastened. Additionally, the landing gear emergency float system was found in the unarmed position.
The caution panel was removed for a detailed light bulb analysis. The fuel pump and engine-out annunciators bulbs contained filaments that were stretched and broken. The low-rotor annunciator bulb contained filaments that were stretched, but not broken.
Drive and flight control continuity was established to both the main and tail rotor systems.
Prior to removing the engine from the airframe, a visual inspection of the powerplant was accomplished; no obvious abnormalities were noted. Examination of the engine revealed, a small amount of (~ 1 teaspoon) water/fuel was found in the fuel line between the firewall check-valve and the fuel nozzle. The fuel line between the fuel control and firewall check-valve was absent any fluid. When the canister housing for the fuel filter was removed and opened, the fluid separated into about a 90/10 water and fuel mixture. A laboratory analysis of the fluid later identified it as water and fuel. The fuel line between the fuel filter and airframe bulkhead contained about 3 tablespoons of fluid (mostly water).
The engine was dissembled and inspected; both the compressor and turbine sections exhibited no abnormalities. The engine's accessories consisting of the fuel control, power turbine governor, fuel pump, and fuel nozzle, were "bench tested" at the operators maintenance facility. No discrepancies were found with the engine accessories, the engine's accessory gearbox, or the main rotor transmission.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed on August 19, 2005, by Lafayette Parish Coroner and Forensic Facility, Lafayette, Louisiana.
Toxicological Testing was conducted by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on October 8, 2005.