Aircraft Accident Report

Weather Encounter and Subsequent Collision into Terrain Bali Hai Helicopter Tours, Inc. Bell 206B, N16849

Kalaheo, Hawaii
September 24, 2004

NTSB Number: AAR-07-03
NTIS Number: PB2007-910404
Adopted February 13, 2007

Executive Summary

On September 24, 2004, about 1642 Hawaiian standard time, a Bell 206B helicopter, N16849, registered to and operated by Bali Hai Helicopter Tours, Inc., of Hanapepe, Hawaii, impacted mountainous terrain in Kalaheo, Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, 8.4 miles northeast of Port Allen Airport, in Hanapepe. The commercial pilot and the four passengers were killed, and the helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and postimpact fire. The nonstop sightseeing air tour flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 and visual flight rules with no flight plan filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed near the accident site.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's decision to continue flight under visual flight rules into an area of turbulent, reduced visibility weather conditions, which resulted in the pilot's spatial disorientation and loss of control of the helicopter. Contributing to this accident was the pilot's inexperience in assessing local weather conditions, inadequate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) surveillance of Special Federal Aviation Regulation 71 operating restrictions, and the operator's pilot-scheduling practices that likely had an adverse impact on pilot decision-making and performance.

The safety issues discussed in this report include the influence of pilot experience and operator scheduling on in-flight decision-making; the lack of FAA oversight of Part 91 air tour operators; the need for national air tour safety standards; and the lack of direct FAA surveillance of commercial air tour operators in Hawaii.

Nine safety recommendations are addressed to the FAA regarding local weather-training programs for newly hired Hawaii air tour pilots; evaluation of operational practices for commercial air tour helicopter pilots; Honolulu Flight Standards District Office control of the annual safety meetings, as required under approved certificates of waiver or authorization; evaluation of the safety impact of the altitude restrictions in the State of Hawaii; national air tour safety standards; and the potential benefits of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast technology for Hawaii air tour operators.