National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
The following is an update of the NTSB's investigation into the crash of an ERA Aviation, Inc. Sikorsky S-76A twin- engine turbine powered helicopter (N579EH) on Tuesday evening, March 23, 2004 in the Gulf of Mexico.
The aircraft, chartered by Unocal of Houston, Texas, departed Scholes International Airport near Galveston, Texas at approximately 6:45 p.m. CST. Its intended destination was High Island A 557 refueling platform, and then an offshore drilling ship. There were 2 crewmembers and 8 passengers aboard.
At 7:23 p.m., the company dispatcher attempted to contact the pilot of the aircraft but received no response. Floating wreckage was found the following day, and a debris field was located in the early morning on March 26, about 70 miles offshore. The debris field is 300 feet by 600 feet and sits in 180 feet of water. The wreckage is reported to be extremely fragmented. The remains of all 10 occupants have been recovered.
There are 5 vessels involved in the search and recovery operation. Most of the aircraft's wreckage has been raised to the ocean surface and will be delivered to a facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for examination by the Safety Board's team.
The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) has been recovered and has been transferred to the Safety Board's laboratory in Washington, D.C. It is of solid state design with 30-minute recording capability (earlier, preliminary information from the company that this was a 2-hour recorder was incorrect). Only one channel of the CVR was recording, the cockpit area microphone. Because of high ambient noise in the cockpit, the recording is unusable for voices. A sound spectrum analysis is being conducted on the recording.
The flight crew records have been reviewed. The captain had 7,256 total hours as of the end of February, including 5,291 as pilot in command of helicopters. His Air Transport Pilot license was in rotary and multi-engine fixed wing aircraft. His total time flying in the Gulf of Mexico was almost 3,900 hours. The second in command had 1,930 total hours, with 1,372 as pilot in command of helicopters. He had a commercial rotorwing license and was a certified instrument flight instructor. His total Gulf time was 1,013 hours. Both pilots had attended S-76A recurrent training in February.
On the morning of the accident, the airframe had 10,075 hours, and the engines had 4,519 and 2,052 hours respectively. The day before the accident a 30-hour inspection and a 300-hour inspection on the main rotor blade were accomplished. The 25-hour tail rotor spar inspection and an airworthiness check had been accomplished two hours before the aircraft departed.
The Safety Board's team is led by Investigator-in- Charge Lorenda Ward. Parties to the investigation are the Federal Aviation Administration, ERA Aviation, Sikorsky and Unocal.
The Board's investigation continues.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.