Friday, August 16, 2013

Robinson R66, Robinson Helicopter Co, N646AG: Accident occurred July 27, 2013 in Noxen, Pennsylvania

 NTSB Identification: ERA13FA336
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 27, 2013 in Noxen, PA
Aircraft: ROBINSON R66, registration: N646AG
Injuries: 5 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 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.

On July 27, 2013, about 2220 eastern daylight time, a Robinson Helicopter Company R66, N646AG, registered to Hampton Roads Charter Service, collided with trees and terrain near Noxen, Pennsylvania. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight from Tri-Cities Airport (CZG), Endicott, New York, to Jake Arner Memorial Airport (22N), Lehighton, Pennsylvania. The helicopter was destroyed and the commercial pilot and 4 passengers were fatally injured. The flight originated from CZG about 2151.

There was no record with Lockheed Martin AFSS or CSC or DTC DUATS that the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing before departure.

According to preliminary air traffic control information, after takeoff the non-instrument rated pilot called Binghamton Approach Control and advised the controller that the flight had just departed CZG, and was requesting visual flight rules (VFR) flight following. The controller provided the altimeter setting (30.00 inches of Mercury) and asked the pilot the destination and requested altitude, to which he replied 22N, and 3,000 feet msl.

A discrete transponder code was assigned (4604), and the flight was radar identified 3 miles southwest of CZG. The flight proceeded in a southwesterly direction flying about 3,000 feet until about 2157, then turned to a south-southeasterly heading while flying between 2,600 and 3,000 feet msl (variations in altitude were noted).

Air traffic control communications were transferred to Wilkes-Barre Approach Control, and the pilot established contact with that facility advising the controller that the flight was level at 3,000 feet msl. The Wilkes-Barre Approach controller acknowledged the transmission, and issued an altimeter setting of 30.00 inches of Mercury. While in contact with that facility the flight proceeded in a southeasterly direction with altitude and slight heading changes until about 2219, at which time recorded radar reflects a left turn to a northeasterly direction. Shortly thereafter, the pilot advised the controller, “we’re inadvertent IMC, reversing ah, can you give us a heading to the nearest airport, please"

The controller asked the pilot if he wanted a heading to the nearest airport and if the flight was in IFR conditions but the pilot did not respond to that transmission. The radar data reflects that the left turn continued to a north-northwesterly heading for about 9 seconds, at which time the radar reflects the helicopter turned to a north-northeasterly heading, followed by a turn to a northerly heading. The controller instructed the pilot to fly heading 068 degrees for a vector to Sky Haven Airport (76N), Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, to which the pilot immediately replied at about 2220:03, “6 alpha gulf having trouble maintaining control here.”

The radar data from Wilkes-Barre Approach reflects that between 2219:53, and 2220:03, the flight descended from 2,800 to 2,600 feet and proceeded in an east-southeasterly direction, and between 2220:03 and 2220:17, the flight proceeded in a northeasterly heading with some altitude deviation noted. The controller then asked the pilot, “helicopter 6AG ah you having trouble maintaining altitude sir", to which the pilot immediately replied, "Affirmative 6AG." The radar data reflected that between 2220:17, and 2220:27, which was between the time the pilot informed the controller he was having trouble maintaining altitude, the helicopter descended from 2,600 to 2,300 feet, and changed direction to the southeast. There were no further recorded communications from the pilot.

The helicopter crashed on privately owned wooded land leased to an energy company; there were no known witnesses to the accident.

The ELT activated and a search was initiated but adverse weather (heavy fog) caused the search to be called off in the early morning hours. The search resumed when the weather allowed, and the wreckage was located on July 28, 2013, about 1350.

TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. — A Virginia woman sued Friday over a helicopter crash last month in northeastern Pennsylvania that killed her young son and four others, saying a charter company “negligently and recklessly” allowed a pilot to fly when he was not fully trained.

 Crystal McKain of Leesburg, Va., filed the wrongful-death lawsuit in Wyoming County over the death of Noah McKain Woodland, 3.

She sued Hampton Roads Charter Service over what she called a lack of training for pilot David Jenny Jr., 30.

Jenny wasn’t certified for instrument-only flights and hadn’t gotten a weather briefing before the scheduled flight from Endicott, N.Y., to Lehighton, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The boy’s father, 29-year-old Carl Robert Woodland, of Lovettsville, Va., also died in the July 27 crash.

“This was a tragic helicopter crash because it was so utterly preventable,” said McKain’s lawyer, Gary Robb. “Given his limited training, this pilot never should have left the ground in these weather conditions, knowing that he was incapable of flying the helicopter in any kind of cloud cover.”

McKain is seeking more than $550,000 in damages. The charter company did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

But Robinson Helicopter Co., the Torrance, Calif.-based company that owns the craft, has said it believes the helicopter was caught in a thunderstorm. The pilot had asked air traffic controllers in Wilkes-Barre to be directed to the nearest airport before experiencing problems and then losing communications, according to the NTSB report.

The county coroner’s office identified the other passengers as 58-year-old Bernard Michael Kelly, of Ellicott City, Md., and his daughter, Leanna Mee Kelly, 27, of Savage, Md.