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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: WPR18LA188
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 04, 2018 in Majuro, MH
Aircraft: Hughes 369, registration: N8648F
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 4, 2018, about 2114 Universal Coordinated time, a Hughes 369D helicopter, N8648F, impacted international waters in the Pacific Ocean about 20 seconds after takeoff from a Taiwan-registered fishing boat. The commercial pilot and the observer received fatal injuries. The helicopter was destroyed by the impact and salt water immersion. The helicopter was registered to Vertol Systems Company of Hillsboro, Oregon, and operated as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 aerial observation flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed about the time of the accident.

The wreckage was recovered onto the fishing boat, which then transported it to a Vertol Systems Company (VSC) facility on the atoll of Majuro in the Marshall Islands; that landfall occurred about 4 days after the accident. The wreckage was rinsed with fresh water after it was brought ashore, and held for possible further examination.

A low-definition surveillance video on the fishing boat captured the helicopter's liftoff and the accident, but did not capture the intervening flight. The weather was clear and the sea appeared relatively glassy. Fishing boat crewmember statements did not provide any significant details regarding the accident.

According to information provided by VSC, as of November 2016, the pilot held commercial rotorcraft and flight instructor (helicopter) certificates, and had about 650 total hours flight experience.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the helicopter was manufactured in 1978, and was equipped with a Rolls-Royce (Allison) 250 C20B series turboshaft engine. VSC records indicated that as of June 30, 2018, the helicopter had accrued a total time (TT) in service of about 17,560 hours, and the engine had a TT of about 15,645 hours. The records also indicated that that engine had been removed from another VSC helicopter and installed in the accident helicopter on that date.