Friday, May 6, 2016

Eurocopter AS355, Era Helicopters LLC, N194EH: Accident occurred May 05, 2016 in Juneau, Alaska

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: 


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Juneau FSDO-05

NTSB Identification: ANC16LA022
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Thursday, May 05, 2016 in Juneau, AK
Aircraft: AIRBUS AS350, registration: N194EH
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 May 5, 2016, about 1408 Alaska daylight time, an Airbus AS350B2 helicopter, N194EH, collided with snow-covered terrain while on approach to a remote landing site on the Norris Glacier, about 15 miles northeast of Juneau, Alaska. The commercial pilot sustained serious injuries, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by, Era Helicopters LLC, Lake Charles, Louisiana, as a visual flight rules (VFR) flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on-demand charter flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated from the operator's base of operations in Juneau, about 1315. 

During an interview with a National Transportation Safety Board investigator on May 11, the pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to provide logistical support to a remote dog sledding camp situated on the Norris Glacier. The pilot said that while on approach to the site, over a large, featureless, and snow-covered ice field, "flat light conditions" made it very difficult to discern the topographical features of the snow-covered ice field below. The helicopter subsequently struck the snow-covered ice field, and rolled over to the right. The pilot characterized the accident as controlled flight into terrain. 

The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage, tailboom, and main rotor system.

The pilot reported that there were no preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation. 

The closest official weather observation station is located at the Juneau International Airport (JNU), about 16 miles west of the accident site. At 1353, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting, and stated in part: Wind, 120 degrees (true) at 15 knots; visibility, 8 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few clouds at 1300 feet, broken clouds at 3900 feet; temperature, 45 degrees F; dew point, 41 degrees F; altimeter, 30.21 inHg.

Era Helicopters has identified its pilot who was critically injured in Thursday’s crash at Norris Glacier near Juneau as Jiri Hanis. 

Hanis, 39, was medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Thursday with critical injuries. A hospital spokeswoman Friday afternoon said he’s in serious condition in intensive care.

Era spokesman Tim O’Leary said Era’s operations in Juneau have been suspended temporarily. He said the start date of the seasonal heli-mush tour on Norris Glacier has also been pushed back from May 12 to May 16.

The pilot was headed up to the glacier at the time of the accident to supply the dog camp, O’Leary said. The helicopter itself is in “pretty rough shape.”

“So, it will be part of the investigation to see if it can – what – can be salvaged,” he said.

Mike Hodges is the investigator in charge on this crash for the National Transportation Safety Board.

“This’ll be a full investigation done by the NTSB,” Hodges said. “And as of right now, we’re waiting on weather conditions to cooperate for recovery operations. So we’re just kind of on standby right now.”

A preliminary report is expected to be published in five to 10 days.

It’s not unusual for weather to limit access to the site. Independent videographer Paul Hemann got stuck on the glacier for three days once because of weather.

“You’d hear the helicopters on the other side just trying to get over and they can’t get over. And they, you know, you’ve got your bags ready to jump on and get out of there, and sat there for three days cause the weather changes, the ceiling changes around those mountains so fast that once they come in, sometimes you don’t got a window to get out.”

Hemann has spent several weeks on Norris Glacier in recent years following the dog sled operation. He said the sled dog camp is sited in a pretty flat basin, but there are some risks. Besides weather, the ice itself can be hazardous. He said workers use long poles to regularly check for hidden ice bridges and crevasses.

“There’ll be … nothing one day, and then the next day, there’ll be a ton of stuff there,” Hemann said. “You know, there might be a big ol’ crack that opened up that’s bottomless.”

Alaska Heli-Mush partners with Era Helicopters for its dog sledding tours on the Norris Glacier. On their website, they describe Era is the “oldest and safest helicopter company in Alaska.”

Original article can be found here:

The pilot flying the helicopter that crashed on Norris Glacier near Juneau Thursday afternoon was identified as 39-year-old Jiri Hanis by Alaska State Troopers.

As of Friday morning, Hanis was in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, according to spokesperson Kim Blakeley.

Hanis, who survived the accident, was the only person in the Era Helicopters helicopter when it went down around 2:05 p.m. near a dog mushing camp run by Alaska Heli-Mush. He was making a supply drop for the camp, said Era spokesman Tim O’Leary, who’s based at the company’s headquarters in Houston, Texas.

“Era has temporarily suspended flights out of Juneau but it’s too early to anticipate the impact, if any, on Era’s flightseeing,” O’Leary said on the phone Friday morning.

Hanis was rescued off the glacier by a Temsco Helicopters helicopter and Capital City Fire/Rescue’s air rescue team.

Hanis had crashed near the base of Guardian Mountain on Norris Glacier, according to a CCFR news release.

“A private dog team company that was working at the glacier performed the initial medical treatment,” it stated.

Hanis was transported to Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, and was then medevaced to Harborview Medical Center at 7:20 p.m. Thursday.

Era is part of the Era Group. According to its website, it’s the longest serving helicopter provider in the industry. The company’s primary business is transporting personnel to oil and gas fields in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. For flightseeing, it offers tours in Denali National Park and Juneau.

In Juneau, Era is located on North Douglas Highway and provides transportation to sled dog tours. It usually offers flightseeing tours of the Juneau Ice Field and nearby attractions.

O’Leary said, system-wide including Alaska, Era has had no safety issues through all of 2014, 2015 and, until yesterday, through 2016.

In 2013, an Era helicopter crashed near Grand Lake, Louisiana, during a maintenance flight. All three occupants died.

Weather conditions near Norris Glacier on Thursday were unfavorable but not “abnormal,” according to National Weather Service Forecaster Kimberly Vaughan.

Original article can be found here:

A TEMSCO helicopter leaves Bartlett Regional Hospital after dropping off a patient on Thursday.

Update | 9:05 p.m.
In a written statement about the crash, company President and CEO Chris Bradshaw expresses appreciation to the people involved in the rescue operation and addresses safety.

“Safety is always our highest priority, and we deeply regret these injuries to one of our team members,” Bradshaw is quoted saying. “Our investigation will continue in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board and other relevant authorities.”

Update | 8:18 p.m.
The patient was medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle at about 7:20 p.m., said Bartlett Regional Hospital spokesman Jim Strader. He remained in critical condition.

Update | 5:38 p.m.
A TEMSCO helicopter dropped the injured helicopter pilot off at Bartlett Regional Hospital around 4:20 p.m. As of 5:20 p.m., hospital spokesman Jim Strader said the patient was in the emergency department with life-threatening injuries.

A woman who answered the phone at Era Helicopters  declined to comment or identify herself.

The National Weather Service’s aviation forecast showed the Juneau area, including the Norris Glacier, under marginal visual flight rules. Heavy rains were forecast with 25 mph winds.

Original story | 3:36 p.m.
The Coast Guard is reporting that a helicopter has crashed near the Norris Glacier and the pilot, who was the only person on board, is injured.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Joshua Ryan of District 17 Command said a distress beacon was detected at 2:14 p.m.

He said Era Helicopters confirmed it was one of theirs that had crashed. Authorities have been in radio contact with dog sled tour operators on the glacier near the crash site. Ryan said those workers got the pilot out of the helicopter.

Ryan said Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel and TEMSCO Helicopters are en route to retrieve the injured pilot. An MH-60 from the Coast Guard’s Air Station Sitka is also en route.

Ryan said the pilot has not been identified. He said the initial reports are that the pilot is responsive, but has chest pains.

Original article can be found here:

Alaska State Troopers have identified the pilot rescued from a helicopter crash near Juneau on Thursday as 39-year-old Jiri Hanis. Hanis was the sole occupant of the aircraft.

According to troopers, the helicopter crashed as Hanis was trying to land the helicopter on Norris Glacier. The Juneau Empire reports that Hanis has since been transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and is listed in critical condition.

According to Coast Guard officials, the helicopter belongs to Era Helicopters, a Texas-based group that provides helicopters for medical transport, search and rescue missions, flightseeing and firefighting.

The crash occurred near a camp where dog sled tours are provided. Troopers were notified of the crash at around 2:35 p.m.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and is investigating the crash.


A pilot is being rescued this afternoon following a helicopter crash at the base of a Southeast Alaska glacier, the U.S. Coast Guard says.

Only one person was on board the Era helicopter when it crashed 2:15 p.m. at Norris Glacier, just west of Taku Glacier, said Chief Warrant Officer Rex Walsingham in Juneau.

The crash was near a camp where dog sled tours are provided, Walsingham said. One or more people drove to the helicopter by snowmachine.

“(The pilot) is injured but he has been removed from the wreckage. He’s only complaining of chest pains and possible broken ribs,” Walsingham said.

A Temsco helicopter was expected to pick up the injured man. The Coast Guard also has a helicopter available to assist, he said.

Rusty Kaskel, assistant director of operations for Era Helicopters, would not confirm that his company’s helicopter was involved. “We’re collecting information now.”

Norris Glacier is about a 15-minute flight from Juneau.

Weather conditions in Juneau today were rainy and ceilings of about 3,000 to 3,500 feet with winds of about 17 miles per hour out of the southeast, according to National Weather Service forecaster Kimberly Vaughan. 

Original article can be found here:

A helicopter pilot who was injured in a crash on Norris Glacier on Thursday afternoon was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to a Bartlett Regional Hospital spokesman.

Bartlett's Jim Strader told the Empire the male pilot arrived at Bartlett around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, and then was transported to Harborview at 7:20 p.m. The pilot, who has not been named but was flying for Era Helicopters, is listed as being in critical condition, Strader said.

An Era Helicopters helicopter crashed on the Norris Glacier, at the north end of Taku Inlet near Juneau.

“The helicopter went down within sight of a dog camp up there, and two dog sledders were able to come down and get to the guy on scene very quickly,” said U.S. Coast Guard District 17 Chief Petty Officer Joshua Ryan.

Ryan said the pilot was the only person on board the helicopter. Its emergency beacon went off at 2:12 p.m.

“He’s responsive, may have some broken ribs, complaining of chest pain. Sounds banged up, but can move around,” Ryan said.

Temsco Helicopters launched a helicopter with Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel on board and landed on the glacier around 3:30 p.m., Ryan said. Coast Guard also had a helicopter en route from Sitka in case Temsco was unable to get there.

“The visibility is poor to none,” Ryan said.

An employee with Era Helicopters did not immediately comment about the crash and said no one else with the Era Group was available to speak with the Empire. Era is part of the Era Group, headquartered in Houston, Texas. According to its website, it’s the longest serving helicopter provider in the industry. The company’s primary business is transporting personnel to oil and gas fields in Alaska and Gulf of Mexico. For flightseeing, it offers tours in Denali National Park and Juneau.

In Juneau, Era is located on North Douglas Highway and provides transportation to sled dog tours on the Norris Glacier. It also offers flightseeing tours of the Juneau Ice Field and nearby attractions.

Alaska Heli-Mush, owned by father and son Linwood and Dalton Fiedler, runs the dog camp on the Norris Glacier. When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Linwood Fiedler declined to comment.

The Coast Guard isn’t releasing the name of the helicopter pilot, but said he appeared to be in his late 30s.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, said investigator Michael Hodges. 

“We’re still kind of in that preliminary stage waiting for information to come in. Once it does, we’ll be making our decision if we’ll be doing any sort of on-site travel and examination,” Hodges said on the phone.

Weather conditions near the glacier were unfavorable but not “abnormal” today, according to National Weather Service Forecaster Kimberly Vaughan.

Around 3:30 p.m., the area was experiencing rain and easterly wind blowing between 10 and 20 knots. In some parts of Gastineau Channel, though, the wind was gusting up to 25 knots. Conditions were not out of the norm for the region, Vaughan said.

“That area can get very strong winds with the easterlies, so 10 to 20 knots isn’t anything too significant,” Vaughan said by phone.

The Beaufort Wind Force Scale, which measures wind speed as it relates to land and sea conditions, rates the wind the glacier is currently experiencing between a “moderate” and a “fresh breeze.” Winds must be gusting more than 28 knots before the scale deems them “high winds.”

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