On May 29, 2008, at 1410 central daylight time, a Bell UH-1H, operated by the Panamanian Servicio Aereo Nacional (SAN) as SAN-100, was destroyed when it impacted buildings in Panama City, Panama. The Panamanian pilot in command, the Panamanian flight mechanic, three Panamanian passengers and six Chilean passengers were fatally injured, and the Panamanian copilot was seriously injured. There were no injuries on the ground. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the visual flight rules flight that departed Enrique A. Jimenez Airport (MONX), Colon, Panama, at 1326, destined for a waterfront hotel landing pad in Panama City, Panama. The VIP transport flight was conducted under Panamanian flight regulations.

According to Panamanian authorities, the passengers included senior officials from both Panama and Chile, including the Director General of the Chilean National Police (Los Carabineros), who were attending an international conference.

A radar review revealed that while approaching the hotel helipad from seaward (from the south, over the Bay of Panama), the helicopter made one 360-degree turn, then another 270-degree turn, and headed eastward toward a different part of the shoreline. Crossing the shoreline, it appeared to be headed over buildings, toward Marco A. Gelabert (Albrook) Airport (MPMG), Panama City, Panama, before disappearing from the radar. The helicopter's altitudes were not recorded.

According to the copilot, while approaching the hotel helipad, the helicopter experienced a power loss from the left engine, making it impossible to land at the pad. The crew concentrated on maintaining flight, and headed toward Marco A. Gelabert Airport. En route, the helicopter impacted the top of a building.

An examination of the accident scene revealed that the majority of the tailboom was on the roof of a four-story building, the majority of the cabin, including the engines, was on the roof of a second, lower building, and that the majority of the cockpit had continued off the second building, down into a street.

A subsequent examination of the wreckage and engines in a hanger revealed that the airframe and flight controls had no preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operations, and that the left engine "was not operating normally at the time of the accident." The engines were subsequently transported to the manufacturer for further examination under Panamanian oversight.

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction of the government of Panama. Further information may be obtained from:

Autoridad Aeronautica Civil (AAC)
Aeropuerto Marcos A. Gelarbert
Via Diogenes de la Rosa, Edificio 805
Apartado 7501 o 7615
Panama 5,
Republica de Panama

Tel: (507) 501-9300

This report is for informational purposes only, and contains only information released by, or obtained from the government of Panama.

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