LAX07LA281
LAX07LA281

On September 27, 2007, about 1440 mountain standard time, a Eurocopter EC 130 B4, N808MH, collided with an eagle while cruising about 5 miles north of Meadview, Arizona. The pilot's intended destination for the air tour sightseeing flight was a helispot near the Quartermaster Bluff, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Immediately following the impact, the pilot made a precautionary landing at the nearest facility, the uncontrolled Pearce Ferry Airport, located about 2 miles north-northeast of his location. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time. The pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries, and five passengers were not injured. The helicopter was owned and operated by Maverick Helicopters, Inc., Las Vegas, Nevada, and it was substantially damaged. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135, and a company flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Las Vegas about 30 minutes before the accident.

According to Maverick's Director of Operations (DO), during the impact sequence the left front windshield (bubble) was punctured and shattered, the vertically oriented column separating the left and center windshields was cracked, and the center windshield was cracked. Also, supporting fuselage frame structure around the windshield sections was deformed.

The DO reported that, at the time of the accident, the helicopter was traversing a bluff area between the Colorado River and the airport. The helicopter was cruising between 100 and 120 knots, and it was approximately 3,500 feet mean sea level. The airport's elevation is 2,941 feet msl.

The pilot provided the following account of the accident:

Approaching the western edge of Grapevine Mesa in level cruise flight, I noticed a large bird about to pass within 50 yards slightly below and to the left side of the helicopter. Suddenly, another bird appeared almost directly ahead. This second bird struck the windscreen section ahead of my seat position, shattering most of the left transparency, and a portion of the center transparency. At the moment of impact I was struck in the face, neck, and arm by debris and/or parts of the bird. I immediately began a descending, decelerating, left-hand turn toward the runway. During the approach I was able to make radio contact with other pilots in my flight to advise them of my situation and intentions. I terminated the approach about midfield, brought the helicopter to a hover, and landed. I advised the passengers that upon shutdown and stopping of the rotor blades, we would evacuate the helicopter. I performed a normal shutdown procedure, stopped the rotor blades, and attempted to open my door. Finding it jammed shut, I instructed the passengers on the right side of the cabin to open the right door. The three front passengers and I exited the helicopter through the right side.

The impacted bird was reported as likely being a golden eagle. It had an estimated 8-foot-long wingspan. The bird was not recovered from the accident helicopter's landing site.

The helicopter was equipped with a video camera that was operating at the time of impact. The DO provided the National Transportation Safety Board investigator with a copy of the video recording, in DVD format. The camera's forward facing lens photographed landscape ahead of the helicopter, and the helicopter-to-bird closure sequence, but not the collision.

The video shows two birds flying ahead of the helicopter a few seconds prior to the collision. The lower elevation bird appears to pass below and to the left of the helicopter. The second bird, which appears larger, rapidly "grows" in size until only one wing is apparent as it disappears above the field of view. Less than 1 second later the sound of an impact is apparent, which is immediately followed by wind noise and voices in the cabin.

The video also shows that the helicopter is in near level flight during the few seconds immediately prior to the collision. Thereafter, the video shows the helicopter commence a shallow bank left turn while descending toward the airport.

Still pictures from the DVD showing the approaching birds are included in the Safety Board's public docket for this accident.

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