Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hughes 369D, N81GG: Fatal accident occurred November 15, 2016 in Pukoo, Hawaii

The  National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Honolulu FSDO-13

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA021
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, November 15, 2016 in Pukoo, HI
Aircraft: HUGHES 369D/500D, registration: N81GG
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 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 November 15, 2016, about 1841 Hawaii standard time, a turbine-powered Hughes 369D (500D) helicopter, N81GG, was destroyed after impacting mountainous tree-covered terrain about 1-mile north of Pukoo, Hawaii. The certificated airline transport pilot and the sole passenger were fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to the pilot and operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight conducted under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. No flight plan was filed. At the time of the accident, dark night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed with localized reports of low visibility with heavy rain showers. The flight departed the Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, at 1756, destined for a private residence near Pukoo, located on the Island of Molokai. 

The pilot owned property on the east side of Molokai Island that included a helipad and residence on the south-east side of Kamakou mountain at an altitude of about 750 and 250 feet, respectively. The helipad has four red solar powered perimeter lights, and three red exterior hangar lights that faced south. 

During an on-scene interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on November 18, the property caretaker reported that the accident pilot routinely used the southerly facing red exterior hangar lights to find the heliport during dark night conditions. The helipad was built high above the residence on a ridgeline that runs a magnetic course of about 330 degrees up the mountain. 

In a telephone interview with the NTSB IIC on November 18, a friend of the accident pilot, who is also a helicopter maintenance technician, said that the pilot often departed in the evenings, after work, from his hangar at the Honolulu International Airport for his property on Molokai. On November 15, the friend/maintenance technician helped the pilot and passenger load and fuel the helicopter just before departure. 

A review of archived Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar data revealed that, at 1756, the accident helicopter departed from the Honolulu International Airport, and it flew south-east at about 1,500 feet, across the Kaiwi Channel to the south side of Molokai Island. The last position of the radar target was recorded about 8 miles southwest of the Molokai Airport as it traveled east, and towards Pukoo. 

The last radio contact with N81GG was at 1824 when the Molokai Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) provided clearance for N81GG for transit through class D airspace to the south-east.

On November 16, after it was discovered that the helicopter did not arrive at the residence, the caretaker of the pilot's Molokai residence reported it overdue. Search personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), along with the crew of a Maui Fire Department's Air One helicopter, were dispatched to conduct an extensive aerial search effort. 

At 0852 the FAA issued an alert notice (ALNOT) for the missing helicopter. 

According to Maui County Police Department records, the crew of a Maui Fire and Rescue Air One helicopter discovered the wreckage at about 1331 about one half mile north of the pilot's helipad. Two rescue personnel were lowered to the site and confirmed that there were no survivors. On November 17 the remains of the two occupants were recovered from the accident site, and transported to Maui County Coroner.

On November 18 the NTSB IIC, along with another NTSB investigator, two FAA safety inspectors from the Honolulu Flight Standards District Office, Aviation Safety Inspectors from MD Helicopters, Boeing Helicopter and Rolls-Royce, reached the accident site in the afternoon. The site was located on the east side of a ridgeline in thick ferns and kiawe forest on a side slope of about 25 degrees at 1,389 feet. The aerial view indicated a confined wreckage pattern of burned and fragmented components on a course of about 310 degrees for 80 feet and a ground brush fire pattern that continued north-west for 50 feet upslope. The fuselage was consumed by post impact fire and all other large components were located in that area. South of the wreckage there were multiple broken tree limbs that revealed impact approach angle of 18 degrees from tree tops down to the helicopter skid fragments on the ground. Sections of the landing skids and windscreen were located first at the south end, then the tail rotor system with horizontal and vertical fins were upslope.

During an interview with the NTSB IIC on November 18, two witnesses who live at a neighboring residence west of the accident site said that they saw N81GG on the evening of the accident at 1837 flying low and slow over their property with a bright landing light illuminating them. The witnesses each commented that it looked like the pilot was lost and searching the ground for something before the helicopter turned to the east, and it departed for the shoreline. 

During a phone interview with the NTSB IIC on November 23, another witness who lives on the ridge to the east of the pilot's property, said that she saw a helicopter with a bright "search light" on the night of November 15 near her home. She said that she watched the helicopter make a "controlled descent under dark, windy and very rainy conditions" down across the ridgeline north of her house, (which is about one quarter mile east of the pilot's helipad,) then disappear behind the ridge. The witness stated that the weather was almost the worst that she had ever seen there, and she has been living at the residence part time for two years.

The National Weather Service radar data shows moderately heavy bands of rain passing from the north-east through the accident area at the approximate time of the accident. 

The closest weather reporting facility is Molokai Airport, located approximately 17 miles west of the accident site. At 1754 HST, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at PHMK, reported wind 030 degrees at 14 knots, gusts to 23 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; scattered clouds at 4,400 feet; temperature 75 degrees F; dew point 69 degrees F; altimeter 30.02 inHg. 

Witnesses located in near Pukoo reported that weather conditions that were much worse than that being reported at the Molokai Airport, which included gusty wind conditions, heavy rain, and reduced visibility. 

Sunset on the day of the accident was 1746; the end of civil twilight was 1810.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

Pilot confusion and bad weather may have contributed to the helicopter crash that killed well-known attorney Gary Galiher.

That’s according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board Wednesday.

The crash occurred on Nov. 15, at around 6:41 p.m., in mountainous terrain about a mile above Pukoo, killing Galiher and his passenger, realtor Keiko Kuroki.

A search began after Galiher was reported missing Wednesday morning.

Family members say Galiher was an avid pilot who had been flying since he was in his 20s. The route from Oahu to Molokai was a familiar one as he flew frequently to his property on Molokai.

Attorney Gary Galiher

EAST MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) -   After an hours-long search Wednesday, crews located the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in rugged terrain on Molokai, killing well-known Hawaii attorney Gary Galiher and his female passenger.

Galiher, 70, was traveling with a real estate agent from Honolulu to his Molokai home Tuesday night when he apparently ran into trouble during windy conditions.

The privately-owned Hughes 369D helicopter registered in Galiher's name departed Honolulu International Airport about 6 p.m. Tuesday and never landed at a private helicopter pad on Molokai as expected.

The chopper was reported overdue at 6:55 a.m. Wednesday, setting off a massive search by air and on land. Rescuers found the wreckage about 1:30 p.m. in a heavily wooded area some 1.3 miles above Kamehameha V Highway.

Galliher's daughter, Mari, told Hawaii News Now that her father was an "amazing man" who lived to help others.

"He's just such an incredible, incredible person," she said. "He's so passionate. He just loved what he did for people, and to him it was never about his name being out there. It was about helping people."

News of Galiher's death stunned his colleagues in the legal community.

"He'll really be missed. It's a big void," said attorney and fellow aviator Rick Fried, who worked with Galliher to help the state win a $1.38 billion settlement against the tobacco industry.

Galiher also spent more than 35 years helping mesothelioma victims in Hawaii.

"He was a good friend and was probably one of the top asbestos lawyers in the country," Fried said.

According to his firm's website, Galiher was also an experienced helicopter accident attorney who had more than 3,600 flight hours under his belt.

"He's very experienced. I've never heard of him having a problem," said pilot John Corboy, who also owns a private helipad on Molokai. "He's very knowledgeable. He commutes every week, just as I do for the past 30 years."

Corboy's wife says the weather near Kaunakakai was very gusty Tuesday night.

"The wind was blowing incredibly strong. I had to shut the house up just to keep the wind out. it was that bad," said Regan Corboy. "And it was gusting, coming this way and that way. Nothing that I would want to fly in."

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the accident, and crews are expected to work Thursday to remove the chopper wreckage from the crash site.

Story and video:

Aircraft & Helicopter Accidents Lawsuits:

Hawaii attorney Gary Galiher

HONOLULU -  Maui fire officials say the wreckage of the helicopter owned by Honolulu attorney Gary Galiher was found Wednesday.  Maui County officials say there were no survivors.

The crash site is near 793 Kamehameha V Highway in Kaunakakai.

Galiher was one of the people on board the black helicopter, according to his Maui law office.  They say he was with a realtor friend.  Galiher has a residence on Molokai.  The helicopter left Honolulu Tuesday evening and did not arrive at a privately-owner helicopter landing pad.

The Coast Guard says residents on the eastern side of Molokai reported seeing a helicopter matching the description.  The helicopter was a Hughes 369D, similar to the helicopter the Honolulu Police Department uses.

The helicopter was reported overdue by the Galiher's employee at 6:55 a.m. Wednesday. The employee called 911 and dispatch notified the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu command center personnel.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.  Allen Kenitzer from the FAA Office of Communications says the helicopter crashed near a Molokai residence under unknown circumstances.

Galiher's daughter, Mari, said Molokai was serenity for her dad.

"I didn't really understand all that he did, but I know he loved what he did," said Mari Galiher.  "He was a role model in my life."

Story and video:

Update: 3:31 p.m. 11/16/16

At 2:42 p.m. Wednesday, rescue crews who reached the helicopter crash site reported that there were no survivors. The Maui police department will be coordinating the recovery of the victims and the preservation of the wreckage scene for federal investigators. The crash site is located approximately 1.3 miles above the highway, near 793 Kamehameha V Highway. This about 1 mile east of the Pūkoʻo Fire Station.

Update: 2:40 p.m. 11/16/16

At 1:31 p.m. Wednesday, the fire department’s Air 1 helicopter located the wreckage of the missing helicopter. Crews have not yet reached the crash site. Crews are preparing to insert rescue crews by helicopter to determine the condition of the two occupants reported to be on board the aircraft. The crash site is approximately 1.3 miles above the highway, near 793 Kamehameha V Highway.

*Additional information will follow as it becomes available.

Original Post:

The Coast Guard is searching for an overdue helicopter with two individuals aboard near the south side of Molokaʻi after the craft was reported to be overdue on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

An employee of the helicopter owner called 9-1-1 to report the craft overdue at 6:55 a.m.

The black, privately owned helicopter reportedly departed Honolulu Tuesday evening with two people aboard and did not arrive to a private helicopter pad on Molokaʻi as expected.

Multiple Coast Guard air and surface crews and a Maui Fire Department aircrew are currently searching the ocean with assets that include the following:

– An HC-130 Hercules airplane and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point;
– Crews of USCGC Kittiwake (WPB-87316) homeported in Honolulu, was diverted from operations off Maui.
– Air 1 helicopter crew from Maui Fire Department.

Dispatch notified the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu command center personnel who in turn relayed the call to the watchstanders at Coast Guard Joint Rescue Communications Center in Honolulu.

An urgent marine information broadcast requesting assistance from mariners in the southern Molokaʻi area has been issued.

Anyone with information that may help locate the helicopter or crew is asked to contact the Sector Honolulu command center at (808) 842-2600

Weather conditions are currently reported as 21 to 23 mph winds, partly sunny with showers.


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