Friday, December 30, 2016

Robinson R44 Raven, Hangar 21 Helicopters / November Alpha LLC, N324RS: Accident occurred December 29, 2016 in Mt. Baldy, San Bernardino County, California

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

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 


FAA Flight Standards District Office: RIVERSIDE

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA043
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 29, 2016 in Mt. Baldy, CA
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N324RS
Injuries: 1 Serious, 3 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 December 29, 2016, at 1131 Pacific standard time, a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 II, N324RS, landed hard near the peak of Mount Baldy, in San Bernardino County, California. The helicopter was registered to November Alpha LLC., and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The commercial pilot sustained serious injuries, and the three passengers were not injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence. The personal flight departed Fullerton Municipal Airport, Fullerton, California at 1100 with a planned destination of Mount Baldy. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported that prior to flight, he performed a weight and balance check, and based on the results, he filled the main fuel tank to half of its capacity, and the auxiliary tank to one quarter.

The departure and flight were uneventful, and he approached the peak of Mount Baldy from the south with the intention of performing an orbit to survey a site for landing. He estimated the wind to be about 5 knots out of the south as he approached, and during the orbit, he could see hikers at the intended landing spot. As he continued to survey the area, the helicopters low rotor RPM warning horn sounded. He lowered the collective and rolled on the throttle, and the warning stopped. He then checked the manifold pressure, which was between 18 and 19 inches of mercury, and decided that he had enough power available to proceed. He continued with a low pass over a ridge, to signal his intent to the hikers that he wished to land at their location.

He returned to the landing site, and in order to avoid the hikers, he positioned the helicopter to approach from the south-southeast. He could feel a tailwind as they approached the landing site, and the low RPM horn sounded again. He lowered the collective, but the helicopter rapidly descended towards the mountain face directly ahead. He warned everyone that a crash was imminent, and just before colliding with the ground, he applied full left foot pedal in an effort to land sideways rather than nose-down. After impact, everyone was able to exit unimpeded, and he set the transponder to 7700, and turned the fuel valve to the "off" position.

The helicopter came to rest on a ridge, 1/3 of a mile west of the summit of Mount Baldy, at an elevation of 9,860 ft. The aft fuselage was partially submerged in the snow, and had sustained buckling damage through to the tailboom.

GLENDORA (FOX 11 / CNS) - A helicopter made a hard landing Thursday on Mt. Baldy, just west of the San Bernardino County line, causing minor injuries to three of the four people aboard.

The helicopter went down about 11:40 a.m. atop a mountain ridge in the snow, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department, which sent an air rescue unit to evacuate the four people who were on board.

The occupants had gotten out of the downed rotorcraft by the time rescuers arrived.

Three were taken to a hospital and one refused transport, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the crash along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Aero Bureau.

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MOUNT BALDY, Calif. (KABC) -- A helicopter crashed Thursday morning in the snow-covered Mount Baldy area, prompting a rescue operation by the San Bernardino County Fire Department, officials said.

The incident occurred west of and 1,000 feet below the Mount Baldy summit, the fire department said on Twitter shortly before noon. According to the agency, hikers at the scene initially reported the helicopter's occupants were "awake and talking."

Four people were in the Robinson R44 when it made a "hard landing," leaving its tail boom significantly damaged, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's Pacific Division.

A fire department helicopter was dispatched to the crash site, which was inaccessible to ground units, officials said.

That chopper landed "offsite" and rescuers made contact with the crashed helicopter's four occupants, the fire department said. Three people were taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, according to officials with the sheriff's department.

After being escorted onto the agency's Air Rescue 7 helicopter, the individuals were flown to a landing zone at Cow Canyon Saddle.


A rescue effort on snow-covered Mount Baldy airlifted all four who had been aboard to safety after their helicopter crippled in a hard landing.  

Two were hospitalized.  

"I'm just glad everyone walked out and no one's gushing blood right now," said passenger William Francis. "Just out of nowhere, we lost altitude."

The Robinson R-44 helicopter went down Thursday morning shortly before noon. 

A responding Sheriff's rescue helicopter carried the pilot and three passengers to a lower elevation. 

From there, one of the injured was flown to a trauma center.  

A second was transported by ground ambulance.  

Their injuries did not appear life-threatening, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. 

The helicopter, based in Fullerton, had been chartered by a group with cameras and plans to record video.  

One brought a drone.

What led to the hard landing is under investigation.

There were indications it was a planned landing that went awry.

It appeared to one passenger that the pilot did not recognize a problem until moments before touchdown. 

"We were just going fast and I heard him say 'oh, (expletive),'" said one passenger, who asked not to be identified.  

Extensive damage was visible to the helicopter's tail section and rotor, and a cockpit window popped out.

"From what I understand it was a pretty hard landing," said Doug Nelson, a Battalion Chief with the San Bernardino County Fire Department. "They're very lucky it was on top of the ridge and not to the side of the ridge."

The helicopter went down just west of the summit of Mount San Antonio, commonly known as Mount Baldy, elevation 10,064 feet, the highest point in Los Angeles County.

The peak is in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Angeles National Forest. 

The summit is reachable by a hiking trail from the east side, and the initial emergency call came from a hiker who saw the helicopter go down, Nelson said.

That call went to San Bernardino county, and one of its Sheriff rescue airships was first to respond, as did a helicopter from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department.  

Within hours of the rescue, a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration was airlifted to the scene to investigate before the expected arrival Friday of a weather front. 

The National Transportation Safety Board was also notified.

The helicopter has previously been used for aerial tours offered by Hangar 21 at Fullerton Airport. 

The incident did not occur during a company tour, according to Rob Sims, who said the helicopter had been rented by the pilot for a charter flight. 

Plans to remove the damaged helicopter from the ridge have yet to be made.

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