NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


UPDATE ON INVESTIGATIONS OF RECENT HELICOPTER ACCIDENTS

July 7, 2004

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board's aviation regional offices are investigating three separate helicopter accidents that happened from June 24-27. Below are updates on those investigations.

Vermillion Bay, Louisiana

On June 24, 2004, at approximately 1:50 p.m. CDT, a Bell 206-L1, N5006F, registered to and operated by American Helicopters Inc. (AHI), of Angleton, Texas, was destroyed when it impacted water in the Gulf of Mexico, near Vermillion Bay, Louisiana. The commercial pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed throughout the area of the accident, and a company flight following plan was filed for the on-demand air taxi flight.

The AHI flight was contracted by Flow Petroleum Services of Lafayette, Louisiana, to transport personnel from offshore platforms to Abbeville, Louisiana. Recorded excerpts extracted from the operator's flight following system revealed that the helicopter departed from offshore platform East Cameron 321 at 12:13 p.m., en route to Eugene Island 349, with one passenger and three hours of fuel onboard. The 70-nautical mile flight arrived on offshore platform Eugene Island 349 at 12:52 p.m., and picked up a second passenger. The flight departed Eugene Island 349 at 12:58 p.m., with three persons and 2.15 hours of fuel onboard. The estimated time of arrival at Abbeville was 1:55 p.m.

At 1:29 p.m., the pilot contacted the AHI flight following service with a normal position report and reported inbound to Abbeville. At 1:37 p.m., the pilot radioed a change to his destination from Abbeville to Intercoastal City, Louisiana. The pilot did not give a reason for the change of destination. During the radio call, the pilot gave an estimated time of arrival time of 1:50 p.m., with 45 miles and 1.15 hours of fuel remaining. At 1:51 p.m., AHI flight following attempted to contact the accident aircraft; however, no communication was established.

The pilots of a helicopter operating in the vicinity of Intercoastal City reported that they heard a Mayday call approximately 1:50 p.m. They stated that they heard "Mayday-Mayday-Mayday," then asked for a location with no response. They then heard another "Mayday-Mayday-Mayday, going in the water." No further communications or reported distress calls were heard by the pilots and there were no reported eyewitnesses.

The main wreckage was located in 25 feet of water approximately 500 yards from the north shore of Vermillion Bay, Louisiana. The tail boom and vertical fin were found approximately 1 mile northeast of the main wreckage area. The wreckage was transported to a hangar located in Carencro, Louisiana, for a detailed examination. Assisting in the investigation were representatives from Rolls Royce (the engine manufacturer), Bell Helicopter, and AHI. Damage to the airframe structure, flight controls, and engine, was consistent with water impact in an abnormal attitude. The skid mounted float system was not deployed. No preimpact mechanical anomalies have been noted in the recovered wreckage. The transmission, main rotor hub and mast assembly, and main rotor blades have not been found, and search efforts continue for these and any other missing components. The engine was recovered and will undergo a detailed examination at a later date.

At 1:21 p.m., the National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center issued a Severe Thunderstorm watch for portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and coastal waters. The last position reported by the pilot at 1:37 p.m. appeared to cross the southeast portion of the watch area. Microbursts, downbursts, heavy rain, moderate and greater turbulence and local IFR conditions were implied by the advisory. The accident site was located within the boundary of the advisory.

The investigator-in-charge for this accident is Alex Lemishko of the South Central Regional Office in Arlington, Texas. The NTSB identification number for this investigation is FTW04FA168.

Cushing, Oklahoma

On June 26, 2004, at approximately 8:45 pm CDT, a Bell 206B single-engine helicopter, N27TV, was destroyed when it impacted the water following an in-flight collision with power lines while maneuvering near Cushing, Oklahoma. The helicopter was owned and operated by Interstate Helicopters, Inc., of Oklahoma City. The commercial pilot and a passenger sustained fatal injuries, and three passengers were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.

The main wreckage was located in the middle of the Cimarron River in approximately 4 to 5 feet of water. The fuselage came to rest inverted and was 90 percent submerged. The tail boom and main rotor system were separated from the fuselage. Witnesses around the city of Cushing have reported that prior to the accident, the helicopter was "hot-dogging" around the city. Several people also reported that they thought the helicopter might have had some problems because of the erratic way it was flying.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter's direction of flight over the river was from east to west. The helicopter impacted and severed three power lines, owned and maintained by Oklahoma Gas and Electric, that were located approximately 200-300 yards from where the main wreckage was located. The unmarked power lines crossed the Cimarron River and were approximately 30 to 40 feet above the river. A review of the wreckage found wire arc burns and scratches located on the mast and pitch change control tubes. No evidence of a wire strike was noted on the fuselage or skid assembly.

The investigator-in-charge for this accident is Aaron Sauer of the South Central Regional Office in Arlington, Texas. Assisting him in the investigation are the FAA, Bell Helicopter, and Rolls Royce. The NTSB identification number for this investigation is FTW04FA167.

Barnesville, Georgia

On June 27, 2004 at 5:30 a.m. EDT, a Robinson Helicopter R44, N441MG, registered to and operated by MG Aviation, collided with trees during a cross-country flight in a residential area in Barnesville, Georgia. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed. The helicopter sustained substantial damage. The certified flight instructor (CFI), and two passengers were fatally injured. The flight originated from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Greer, South Carolina that day at approximately 3:00 am.

According to the chief pilot of MG Aviation, the CFI and his two friends were at a musical concert the night before until approximately 1:30 a.m. After the concert they went over to the flight school to check the weather with the Flight Service Station. After the briefing, the briefer told the CFI that VFR flight was not recommended. The pilot printed out the weather report at 2:30 a.m., and departed the airport approximately 30 minutes later. No further contact with the pilot was reported.

According to a witness in the vicinity of the accident, at 5:30 a.m., a helicopter was heard over the residential area in Barnesville, Georgia. Shortly afterward, an explosion was heard. Witnesses and first responders reported that the weather at the time of the accident was foggy and wet. When witnesses searched the area, the downed helicopter was found engulfed in flames. Efforts by witnesses and first responders to extinguish the flames were unsuccessful. No radio communication was received from the pilot prior to the accident. The purpose of the flight is still undetermined.

The investigator-in-charge for this accident is Eric Alleyne of the Southern Regional office in Atlanta, Georgia. The NTSB identification number for this investigation is ATL04FA141.

 

NTSB Office of Public Affairs:(202) 314-6100

 

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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.