Thursday, May 5, 2016

Aerospatiale AS 350B2, N561AM, operated by Air Methods Corporation: Accident occurred April 15, 2016 in Jasper, Pickens County, Georgia

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia
Air Methods Corporation; Englewood, Colorado 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N561AM

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Location: Jasper, GA
Accident Number: ERA16LA159
Date & Time: 04/15/2016, 1955 EDT
Registration: N561AM
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER FRANCE AS350
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Settling with power/vortex ring state
Injuries: 4 None
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled - Air Medical (Medical Emergency) 

On April 15, 2016, about 1955 eastern daylight time, a Eurocopter France AS350B2, N561AM, operated by Air Methods Corporation, was substantially damaged during collision with terrain near Jasper, Georgia. The commercial pilot and three medical flight crewmembers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The helicopter was operating on a company visual flight rules flight plan from Lanier Park Hospital Heliport (38GA), Gainesville, Georgia, to a helipad at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Jasper, Georgia. The helicopter emergency medical service flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.

According to a witness, the helicopter performed a circuit over the hospital prior to approaching the helipad to land. The helicopter began to descend, then about 110 ft above ground level (agl), the helicopter "bobbled up and down" and then it started to "fall quickly toward the ground."

According to the operator and the pilot, the helicopter completed an orbit over the hospital helipad about 800 ft agl prior to beginning a descent for landing. The pilot initiated a downwind approach to the helipad over high tension power lines, about 250 ft agl, and then turned onto the final leg of the approach, which was on a 300° heading. He said the tail rotor became "difficult to control," and the helicopter pitched forward uncommanded, and then began a "rapid descent with forward airspeed."

Believing he "might be in a vortex ring state condition," the pilot reduced the power and initiated a go-around but lacked sufficient altitude to complete the maneuver. The pilot maintained forward airspeed and raised the nose but landed hard, bounced three times, and came to rest upright. The pilot and three medical crew members then exited the helicopter without injury or assistance.

The weather reported at Pickens County Airport (JZP), Jasper, Georgia, about a half-mile northwest of the accident location included wind from 120°at 11 knots, gusting to 16 knots, with 10 miles visibility. The temperature was 18° C, the dew point was -8° C, and the altimeter setting was 30.24 inches of mercury.

Examination of the helicopter revealed substantial damage due to a partial separation of the taiboom. The operator reported, and examination confirmed, that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures prior to the accident.

According to representatives from Airbus Helicopters, the maximum allowable engine torque setting was for the helicopter was 100 percent continuous. The Vehicle Engine Multifunction Display (VEMD) was reviewed under federal supervision and the data indicated overtorque events at 107 percent for 2 seconds and 113 percent for 1 second.

According to the FAA Rotorcraft Flying Handbook, "vortex ring state" (or "settling with power") describes an aerodynamic condition where a helicopter may be in a vertical (with regard to the air mass) descent with up to maximum engine power applied, and little or no cyclic authority. The term "settling with power" comes from the fact that a helicopter keeps settling, even though full engine power is applied. However, when the helicopter begins to descend vertically, it settles into its own downwash, which greatly enlarges the main rotor blade tip vortices. In this vortex ring state, most of the power developed by the engine is wasted in accelerating the air in a doughnut pattern around the rotor.

A vortex ring state may be entered during any maneuver that places the main rotor in a condition of high upflow and low forward airspeed, including near-vertical descents of at least 300 ft per minute, and a horizontal velocity slower than that for effective translational lift. A fully developed vortex ring state can be "characterized by an unstable condition in which the helicopter experiences uncommanded pitch and roll oscillations."

The handbook also noted that "when recovering from a settling with power condition, the tendency on the part of the pilot is to first try to stop the descent by increasing collective pitch. However, this only results in increasing the stalled area of the rotor, thus increasing the rate of descent. Recovery is accomplished by increasing forward speed, and/or partially lowering collective pitch." With sufficient altitude, temporary entrance into an autorotation will also enable safe exit from the vortex ring state.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 52, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used:  4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam:  06/16/2015
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/07/2015
Flight Time:  4214 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1620 hours (Total, this make and model), 4214 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 30 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 10 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: EUROCOPTER FRANCE
Registration: N561AM
Model/Series: AS350 B2
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 4381
Landing Gear Type: Skid
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  04/07/2016, Continuous Airworthiness
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 4630 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 57 Hours
Engines: 1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time: 3386 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Turbomeca
ELT: C126 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: Arriel 1D1
Registered Owner:  TD AVIATION FINANCE LLC
Rated Power:  681 hp
Operator:  Air Methods Corporation
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code:  QMLA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: JZP, 1535 ft msl
Observation Time: 1955 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / -8°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 11 knots/ 16 knots, 120°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.24 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: GAINESVILLE, GA (38GA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Destination: Jasper, GA (NONE)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1938 EDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Hospital Helipad (NONE)
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 1535 ft
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 4 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 None
Latitude, Longitude:  34.445556, -84.445833 (est)

NTSB Identification: ERA16LA159
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, April 15, 2016 in Jasper, GA
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER FRANCE AS350, registration: N561AM
Injuries: 4 Uninjured.

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 not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On April 15, 2016, about 1955 eastern daylight time, a Eurocopter France AS350B2, N561AM, operated by Air Methods Corporation, was substantially damaged after it impacted terrain near Jasper, Georgia. The commercial pilot and three medical flight crewmembers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The helicopter was operating on a company visual flight rules flight plan from Lanier Park Hospital Heliport (38GA), Gainesville, Georgia, to a helipad at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Jasper, Georgia. The helicopter emergency medical service flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.

According to the pilot, he made a downwind approach to the helipad over high tension power lines and then turned onto the final leg of the approach. Then, he noted that the tail rotor became "difficult to control" and the helicopter began a "rapid descent with forward airspeed." The pilot reduced the power and unsuccessfully attempted to perform a go-around maneuver. He configured the helicopter for landing by maintaining forward airspeed, raised the nose of the helicopter, however it impacted the ground and "bounced" three times prior to coming to rest. The pilot and three medical crew members then exited the helicopter without anomaly.

A post-accident examination of the helicopter revealed that the tailboom had partially separated from the airframe, which resulted in substantial damage. In addition, there were no anomalies noted with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation prior to the accident.

Representatives from Airbus Helicopters examined the data from the Vehicle Engine Multifunction Display (VEMD) under federal oversight on April 18, 2016. The data indicated an overtorque event at 107 percent for 2 seconds and 113 percent for 1 second.




4/15/2016 - UPDATE: Statement from Christina Brodsly, Air Methods Director of Corporate Communication

"We can confirm that there was a hard landing in Jasper, Georgia involving an Airbus AS350 B2. Our crew is safe and there were no injuries, and there were no patients on board the aircraft. All the details are being sorted out at this time and there is no room for speculation. We are working closely with the NTSB and FAA as they conduct a thorough investigation."



An Air Methods helicopter was on final approach to Piedmont Mountainside to pick up a patient when it had a hard landing just south of the hospital in an open field. 

There were four crew members on board at the time of the crash and all walked away with no injuries. 

Von Headreak, Jasper Fire Assistant Chief said, "The pilot did an outstanding job of keeping the aircraft upright during this incident." 

The NTSB is handling the accident investigation. 

Original article can be found here:  http://www.knowpickens.com

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