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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: FTW04FA097
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Sunday, March 21, 2004 in Pyote, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/26/2006
Aircraft: Bell 407, registration: N502MT
Injuries: 4 Fatal, 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

While maneuvering during dark night conditions, an emergency medical services helicopter impacted the terrain near Pyote, Texas, after encountering a gust front that produced localized blowing dust and moderate to severe turbulence. The pilot did not obtain any formal preflight weather briefing before departure or en route. No flight dispatch services were used for the flight. No evidence was found to indicate that the pilot obtained any preflight weather briefing before departure or en route. Radar data depicted the helicopter traveling in a north-northeasterly direct route toward the destination after departing from a hospital. Approximately 34 minutes after departure, the helicopter executed a right turn to the east. About that time, the pilot contacted the company dispatch and began a position report, stating, "...hold on a [minute] dispatch, [approximately 14 seconds later] look at, gimme something to look at." There were no further communications from the helicopter. Radar data indicated that the helicopter continued in a right turn back to the north. Examination of the accident site revealed the helicopter impacted the terrain on a southerly heading in the opposite direction of the destination, consistent with the helicopter turning around again. Examination of the helicopter revealed no evidence of an in-flight control or system malfunction before the initial impact. According to documents provided by the operator, the pilot had accumulated a total of 86 flight hours as pilot-in-command of the accident helicopter make and model and a total of 4,209 rotorcraft flight hours. Reported weather conditions at the time of the accident and near the accident site included strong winds, moderate to severe turbulence, and unstable atmosphere that supported thunderstorm activity.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's inadvertent encounter with adverse weather, which resulted in the pilot failing to maintain terrain clearance. Contributing factors were the dark night conditions, the pilot's inadequate preflight preparation and planning, and the pressure to complete the mission induced by the pilot as a result of the nature of the EMS mission.