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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN18FA033
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, November 19, 2017 in Stuttgart, AR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/05/2018
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON CANADA 407, registration: N620PA
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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.

The helicopter air ambulance flight was en route to pick up a patient when company satellite tracking was lost at an altitude about 1,250 ft mean sea level. The helicopter impacted a reservoir bank and a postimpact fire consumed a majority of the fuselage. Examination of the helicopter did not reveal any anomalies with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

A postaccident examination of the wreckage found multiple bird remains, identified as snow geese, were located in the cockpit and embedded in the pilot's clothing and boot. Fragments of a night vision goggle (NVG) system near the pilot's position suggest that the pilot was using them for visual navigation; however, there was no moon illumination to enhance the NVG effectiveness, and it is unlikely that the pilot would have been able to visually detect the birds before impact. While the helicopter flight controls were continuous, it could not be determined if the bird strikes jammed the pilot's controls and/or incapacitated the pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • An in-flight loss of control due to bird strikes.