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3rd of September 2010, Blog #526

A Bell 47G-5 helicopter was needed at an off-airport work site 3 miles due west of Salinas Municipal Airport, California, USA. The aircraft was give a pre-flight inspection by the pilot at Salinas Municipal Airport for the very short ferry flight early in the morning on this day in 2010.

The aircraft wreckage, shortly after the crash (Source; public domain © Unknown)


The weather was far from ideal;

  • Wind - None

  • Clouds - Overcast at 100 ft AGL

  • Visibility - 2 miles

  • Temp. - 13ºC

  • Dew Pt. - 12ºC

  • QNH - 29.96 inHg

  • VFR/IFR - IFR

At 05.50 lt (local time) the aircraft took of from Salinas. The aircraft climbed to an height of 50 feet an proceeded towards the landing site. Being familiar with the area, the pilot was concerned about power lines in the vicinity of the airport and climbed the aircraft to 80 feet AGL. This caused a loss of visual references as the aircraft entered the low hang clouds. In an attempt to illuminate the ground references the pilot switched on the helicopters landing light. This however blinded the pilot temporary, causing him to be disoriented. The pilot then attempted to return to Salinas Airport by initiating a 180º turn and descending out of the clouds. This resulted in a loss of control and the helicopter impacted the highway adjacent to the airport. Initial impact was with the tail section of the helicopter which collided with a guard rail on the highway. Subsequently the helicopter impacted the southbound lane of the highway, coming to rest inverted. The helicopter was damage substantially and the pilot suffered serious injuries.

The aircraft wreckage, shortly after the crash (Source; public domain © Unknown)

A truck driver who was traveling southbound on the interstate highway reported seeing the helicopter approaching her position from the right side; it was moving from side to side. The witness stated that the helicopter subsequently impacted the terrain and rolled over, coming to rest partially inverted. The witness added that the forward visibility at the time of the accident was about 250 feet, and it was also very foggy.


The accident was reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who launched an investigation in to the accident. The pilot provided a written statement and was interviewed by an aviation safety inspector from the FAA. The NTSB concluded that the probable cause for the was;

"The pilot's visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in his spatial disorientation and loss of helicopter control."

The aircraft wreckage, shortly after the crash (Source; public domain © Unknown)

The NTSB report, on which this blog is based, can be accessed for reference by clicking on the .pdf file below;

Bell 47G Loss of Control 03-Sep-2010
.pdf
Download PDF • 89KB



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