Monday, April 4, 2016

Bell 206L LongRanger, registered to a private individual and operated by Great Smoky Mountain Helicopters Inc doing business as Smoky Mountain Helicopters, N16760: Fatal accident occurred April 04, 2016 in Pigeon Forge, Sevier County, Tennessee

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration AVP-100; Fort Worth, Texas
Transportation Safety Board of Canada - Accredited Representative; Gatineau, Quebec
Bell Helicopter; Fort Worth, Texas
Rolls-Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana
Honeywell; South Bend, Indiana
Eaton Corporation; Euclid, Ohio

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/16760 

Location: Pigeon Forge, TN
Accident Number: ERA16FA144
Date & Time: 04/04/2016, 1610 EDT
Registration: N16760
Aircraft: BELL 206
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 5 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Aerial Observation - Sightseeing 

On April 4, 2016, about 1610 eastern daylight time, a Bell 206L, N16760, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering following a loss of engine power in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The commercial pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to a private individual and operated by Great Smoky Mountain Helicopters, Inc., doing business as Smoky Mountain Helicopters as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 local air tour flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the flight that departed Sixty Six Heliport (6TN3), Sevierville, Tennessee, about 1600.

According to the operator, the helicopter had been purchased in 1986 for air tour/sightseeing purposes. At the time of the accident, the operator owned two helicopters, a Bell 206B that was based in Cherokee, North Carolina, and the accident helicopter, which was based at 6TN3.

A company pilot reported that he flew the helicopter on an estimated 10 local sightseeing flights on the morning of the accident. The accident pilot took over from him between 1300 and 1400 and completed 5 sightseeing flights in the helicopter before the accident flight. The company pilot reported that he checked the helicopter's fuel level before the departure of the accident flight, and the fuel level was "just below the 6-inch line," which corresponded to about 300 pounds of fuel.

The pilot of another helicopter operating in the area about the time of the accident reported that he did not hear any distress calls. He further stated that he heard the accident pilot make a normal landmark position report over "wonderworks."

A witness who lived near the accident site reported that he was outside when he observed the helicopter at a low altitude in a descent and that it "didn't sound right." He further described the sound as if "the engine was wound tight" and it "lost the rotor sound." He then heard the engine go silent, "as if the pilot cut the power," which was followed by sounds associated with impact. Another witness reported hearing the impact and seeing the accident site engulfed in fire. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial; Private
Age: 38, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/21/2015
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  1310 hours (Total, all aircraft), 875 hours (Total, this make and model) 

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airmen records, the pilot held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument-helicopter. He reported a total flight experience of 550 hours, with 300 hours accumulated during the preceding 6 months on the application for his most recent FAA second-class medical certificate, which was issued on April 21, 2015.

According to company records, the pilot was hired in April 2015. He satisfactorily completed a factory Bell Helicopter 206L pilot transition course on April 10, 2015 and received a logbook endorsement that noted satisfactory completion of a flight review in accordance with 14 CFR section 61.56 on that date. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that, as of March 25, 2016, he had logged about 1,310 hours of total flight experience, which included about 875 hours in Bell 206-series helicopters. According to the operator's helicopter log, the pilot flew the accident helicopter on several occasions between March 25 and the accident flight; however, the flight time that was accumulated by the pilot during these flights could not be determined.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BELL
Registration: N16760
Model/Series: 206 L
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 45081
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 7
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/04/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 4251 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 40 Hours
Engines: 1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time: 22522 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: ALLISON
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: 250-C20B
Registered Owner: Bobby Riggs
Rated Power: 420 hp
Operator: GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN HELICOPTERS INC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA)
Operator Does Business As: Smoky Mountain Helicopters
Operator Designator Code: B9RA 

The seven-seat helicopter was manufactured in 1977 and issued an FAA standard airworthiness certificate in the normal category on March 1, 1977. It was equipped with a two-blade main rotor system and a two-blade tail rotor system that were powered by a 420-horsepower Rolls-Royce (formerly Allison) 250-C20B turboshaft engine.

Review of maintenance information revealed that, at the time of the accident, the helicopter had accumulated about 22,562 total hours, and the engine had accumulated about 8,550 total hours. The helicopter had been operated for about 40 hours since its most recent 100-hour and annual inspections, which were signed-off concurrently on March 4, 2016.

According to engine records, the engine fuel pump, model number 386500-5, serial number T103542, was manufactured by the Power Accessories Division of TRW, Inc., later known as Argo-Tech Corporation and now a part of Eaton Corporation. The fuel pump was installed on the engine on June 23, 2009, at an engine total time of 7,472.0 flight hours. A maintenance record entry stated that, at the time of installation, the fuel pump had 0 flight hours since overhaul. Based on the engine total time at the time of the accident, the fuel pump had accumulated about 1,078 flight hours since its last overhaul. According to the Rolls-Royce M250-C20 series maintenance manual, the fuel pump had an overhaul interval of 4,000 hours. Before installation on the accident engine, the fuel pump was overhauled at International Governor Services (IGS) in Broomfield, Colorado. The IGS work order stated that the pump was overhauled in accordance with Argo-Tech Component Maintenance Manual (CMM) No. 73-10-10, revision 0, dated November 2000. Signed-off inspections in the work order included dimensional checks; fluorescent penetrant inspection of the filter housing, bypass filter housing, pump cover, and gear housing assembly; and magnetic particle inspection of the main drive shaft, drive gear, and driven gear. No anomalous findings were recorded in these inspections. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GKT, 1013 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1615 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 45°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 10 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / Unknown
Wind Direction: 220°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / Unknown
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: SEVIERVILLE, TN (6TN3)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: SEVIERVILLE, TN (6TN3)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1605 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The 1615 weather observation at Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (GKT), Sevierville, Tennessee, located about 3 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, reported wind from 220° at 10 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 24°C, dew point 2°C, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of mercury.

Airport Information

Airport: SIXTY SIX (6TN3)
Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 1010 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: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.825278, -83.568333 (est) 

The helicopter impacted trees near the top of a ridge that was about 1,100 ft mean sea level (msl). The main wreckage was found on its left side on a heading of about 340° magnetic in a wooded area near the bottom of a ridge. An initial tree strike was identified about 405 ft south of the main wreckage on top of the ridge at an elevation of about 1,100 ft mean sea level. Pieces of Plexiglas and the front-left piece of skid tube were found in the immediate vicinity of the initial tree strike. The primary debris path began at the top of the ridge and extended down to the main wreckage at the bottom of the ridge. The main wreckage was mostly consumed by a postcrash fire, and the entire area surrounding the main wreckage was charred. All major structural components of the helicopter were located at the accident site.

Airframe and Rotor Systems

The upper portion of the main fuselage with the engine and main transmission still attached was resting on its left side and exhibited crush damage. The midsection of the tail boom, including the horizontal stabilizer, was found separated but immediately aft of the main wreckage. The left horizontal stabilizer was fractured about mid-span. The outboard portion of the left horizontal stabilizer and the vertical fin were found at the top of the ridge, about 110 ft south of the main wreckage.

The cockpit instruments were observed ahead of the main fuselage along the debris path. The instruments exhibited thermal distress. The caution and warning panel (CWP) was observed behind the main fuselage along the debris path, and it also exhibited thermal distress. Subsequent X-ray examination of the CWP was conducted at the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, DC, to assess the condition of the individual light bulb filaments. The examination found that several of the bulb globes were melted due to thermal exposure; all of the lights had filaments present; and all of the filaments were visible in the X-ray. Several of the filaments were broken, but none of the bulbs demonstrated hot coil filament stretching. These findings were consistent with none of the lights being illuminated at impact.

One main rotor blade was found near the main fuselage and remained attached to the main rotor hub. The root end of the second main rotor blade remained attached to the main rotor hub and was partially embedded into the ground. The remainder of the second blade was found forward of the main fuselage in the debris path. The tips of both main rotor blades exhibited fractures. Pieces of the fractured blade tip from the second main rotor blade were found behind the ridge, about 330 ft south-southeast of the main wreckage and near the location of the initial tree strike. The leading edges of both blades did not exhibit evidence consistent with impact damage with high rotational energy.

Manual rotation of the main rotor blades in the direction opposite of normal rotation resulted in the rotation of the main rotor shaft, the engine-to-main transmission drive shaft, the engine's No. 4 turbine wheel, and the tail rotor drive output shaft. Freewheeling functionality was confirmed by manual rotation of the main rotor blades in the direction of normal rotation, which resulted in no rotation of the engine's No. 4 turbine wheel. The flexible couplings between the drive shaft flanges were intact and did not display evidence of fractures or deformation consistent with power at impact. The tail rotor gearbox remained mounted to a section of tail boom that was separated and located about 40 ft southeast of the main wreckage. Manual rotation of the tail rotor blades resulted in rotation of the gearbox input. The splines at the tail rotor gearbox did not exhibit evidence of fractures or smearing. Subsequent removal of the chip detectors from the main transmission and tail rotor gearbox revealed no evidence of large ferrous particles.

Both main rotor pitch links were fractured about mid-length, and both ends of each link remained attached to the corresponding blade pitch horn and the rotating swashplate; the fractures exhibited signatures consistent with overload. The rotating and stationary swashplates remained installed on the main rotor shaft. The idler lever assembly remained attached to the rotating swashplate and the main rotor shaft. The collective lever assembly remained attached to the swashplate sleeve assembly and the main rotor control support assembly (mounted on top of the main transmission housing). Control linkages remained attached between the control mixing unit and both the stationary swashplate and the collective lever. Control linkages from the control mixing unit to the hydraulic actuators were fractured and thermally distressed but remained connected at their clevis ends. The three hydraulic actuators (left cyclic, right cyclic, and collective) were found mounted to the airframe, but their aft mounts were fractured. The hydraulic actuators and their airframe mounts exhibited evidence of heat distress. Hydraulic lines remained connected to the three hydraulic actuators but were broken in multiple areas. The hydraulic pump remained mounted to the main transmission.

The collective control stick and the collective jackshaft were found loose within the wreckage near the main fuselage and exhibited thermal distress. The cyclic stick was not recovered at the accident site. The base of the cyclic (into which the cyclic stick is installed) was observed loose within the wreckage and exhibited thermal distress.

Due to impact damage and the extensive postcrash fire, the helicopter's seats and restraint system could not be evaluated.

Engine

The engine remained installed on the airframe. The left side of the engine casing and the left exhaust port exhibited crush damage. The first stage compressor did not exhibit evidence of hard or soft body impact damage but exhibited evidence of sooting. No evidence of scoring was observed between the first stage compressor blades and blade track. The 4th stage turbine wheel was visible through the exhaust port, and its blades did not exhibit visible impact damage. The gas producer fuel control remained installed on the engine accessory gearbox, and the indicator was observed to be in the 0° ("cut off") position. The power turbine governor and engine fuel pump remained installed on the engine accessory gearbox. Subsequent disassembly of the core engine, which was comprised of the compressor section, combustion section, turbine section, and an accessory gearbox, did not reveal any anomalous damage that would have precluded normal engine operation.

Fuel Pump

The engine fuel pump was removed from the engine accessory gearbox and disassembled. Removal of the drive shaft revealed that its small splines, which are normally mated to the internal splines of the fuel pump drive gear, exhibited evidence of severe damage, with significant portions of the spline teeth missing material. The drive shaft spacer exhibited thermal distress and indentations consistent with contact with the internal splines of the drive gear (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Anomalous spline damage observed on the small splines of the drive shaft (red arrows) and indentations observed on the drive shaft spacer (yellow arrows).

Remnant pieces consistent with the retaining clip, which is normally installed on the spline relief on the drive shaft small splines, were not observed during disassembly but were later identified via photographs taken during the examination (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. Remnant pieces consistent with the retaining clip (red arrow).

The internal splines of the drive gear also exhibited evidence of severe damage, with significant portions of the spline teeth missing material (see Figure 3).


Figure 3. Anomalous spline damage observed on the internal splines (red arrows).

Further examination of the disassembled fuel pump components was performed at the NTSB Materials Laboratory, Washington, DC. The hardness and material composition of the drive shaft and drive gear met required specifications. Remnant material on the drive shaft and drive gear splines were similar to mineral-oil-based/soap-thickened lubricants.

The illustrated parts list for the fuel pump found in the CMM allowed for 11 different drive shaft spacers of different sizing. According to the CMM, measurements taken during assembly of the drive shaft to the pump assembly are used to select proper drive shaft spacer thickness. The drive shaft spacer installed on the accident fuel pump drive shaft was consistent with a P/N 215981-8 spacer, about 0.240 inches thick (see Figure 4). According to the original build record from the manufacture of the fuel pump, dated September 1985, a spacer with a thickness of 0.120 inches was originally installed. Records of fuel pump overhaul preceding the last overhaul were not available, and it could not be determined whether other spacer sizes were used throughout the operational history of the accident fuel pump. In addition, it could not be determined whether the drive shaft, drive gear, and driven gear were original to the fuel pump or, if previously replaced, when the replacement occurred.


Figure 4. The drive shaft spacer installed on the drive shaft (red bracket).

[For additional details of the metallography performed on the accident fuel pump components, see NTSB Materials Lab Factual Report No. 17-016 in the docket for this investigation.] 

Flight Recorders

The helicopter was not equipped nor was it required to be equipped with any crash-resistant data or image recorders.

Medical And Pathological Information

The Regional Forensic Center Knox County, Knoxville, Tennessee, performed autopsies on the pilot and the four passengers. According to the autopsy reports, all five helicopter occupants suffered blunt force injuries, but three of the five died primarily from thermal injuries; one died as a result of combined thermal and blunt force injuries (pilot); and one died as a result of blunt force injuries. [For additional information pertaining to the occupants' injuries, see the NTSB Injury Factual Report in the public docket for this investigation.]

Toxicological testing performed by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on specimens obtained from the pilot were negative for all tested drugs.

Additional Information

Fuel Pump Overhaul

A discussion with IGS personnel about their overall experiences with overhaul of the fuel pump revealed that they had seen wear similar to the accident fuel pump drive shaft spline wear but not to the severity of the wear observed on the drive shaft from the accident fuel pump. An IGS mechanic who specialized in overhauling fuel pumps similar to the one on the accident helicopter stated that he had seen drive shaft spline wear "about 4 or 5 times" since 2008, and a lack of lubricant or corrosion was associated with the spline wear. Additionally, the IGS mechanic stated he had only observed wear on the smaller splines of the drive shaft and had not observed wear on the larger splines of the drive shaft (the splines that mate to the engine accessory gearbox drive gear). According to IGS, fuel pumps that are submitted for overhaul are visually examined for evidence of spline or gear tooth wear; if wear is observed, the part is rejected.

Fuel System Crash Resistance

On October 3, 1994, the FAA introduced improved fuel system crash resistance standards for normal category helicopters via Amendment 27-30 to Part 27 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The standards for fuel system crash resistance, 14 CFR 27.952, are intended to minimize fuel spillage near ignition sources in order to increase the evacuation time available for crew and passengers to escape a postcrash fire. The improved crash resistance standards were not retroactively applicable to either existing helicopters or newly manufactured helicopters whose certification basis and approval predated the effectivity of Amendment 27-30.

The Bell 206L model was type certificated in September 1975 under type certificate data sheet No. H2SW. The accident helicopter was not manufactured, nor was it required to be manufactured, with a fuel system meeting the provisions of 14 CFR 27.952. According to Bell Helicopter, the 206L helicopter was originally equipped with a thin-wall bladder-type fuel cell. These original fuel bladders were not nor were they required to be drop-tested. Additionally, although frangible structural interfaces were used at major interfaces, such as the filler cap adapter, the vent and fuel feed lines were rigid tubes. In March 1994, Bell Helicopter released Service Instruction No. BHT-206-SI-2043 to improve the crash resistance of the original fuel system for 206L and 206L-1 helicopters via incorporation of a retrofit kit. While this retrofit kit was not certified to the provisions of 14 CFR 27.952, it introduced fuel bladders with a higher puncture resistance than the original fuel bladders, replacement of rigid interconnect tubes with stainless steel braided hoses, and frangible structural attachments to the fuel bladders. Additionally, the improved fuel bladders were drop-tested at 80% capacity from a height of 50 ft. According to Bell Helicopter, the retrofit kit has been available since 1994, but they did not have a record of selling one of these retrofit kits. A review of the helicopter's maintenance history revealed no record of modifications to the original fuel system to improve its crash resistance.

Autorotation Information

According to the FAA Rotorcraft Flying Handbook, "…an autorotation is a descending maneuver where the engine is disengaged from the main rotor system and the rotor blades are driven solely by the upward flow of air through the rotor. In other words, the engine is no longer supplying power to the main rotor. The most common reason for an autorotation is an engine failure…At the instant of engine failure, the main rotor blades are producing lift and thrust from their angle of attack and velocity. By immediately lowering collective pitch, which must be done in case of an engine failure, lift and drag are reduced, and the helicopter begins an immediate descent, thus producing an upward flow of air through the rotor system…"

The Bell 206L rotorcraft flight manual states that in the event of an engine failure in flight, an autorotation should be performed by adjusting collective pitch control to maintain a main rotor speed of 90-107% rpm and cyclic control to obtain the desired autorotative airspeed for the condition (with a stated "normal autorotation airspeed" of 70 mph or 61 knots).

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA144
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, April 04, 2016 in Pigeon Forge, TN
Aircraft: BELL 206, registration: N16760
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 April 4, 2016, about 1610 eastern daylight time, a Bell 206L, N16760, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The helicopter was operated by Great Smoky Mountain Helicopters, Inc., doing business as, Smoky Mountain Helicopters. The commercial pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the flight that departed Sixty Six Heliport (6TN3), Sevierville, Tennessee. The local air tour flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the operator, the helicopter had been purchased in 1986 for air tour/sight-seeing purposes. At the time of the accident, the operator owned two helicopters, a Bell 206B that was based in Cherokee, North Carolina, and the accident helicopter, which was based at 6TN3.

A company pilot reported that he flew the helicopter an estimated 10 flights on the morning of the accident, and before the accident pilot began flying sometime between 1300 and 1400. The accident pilot performed 4 flights in the helicopter and then shut it down while waiting for additional customers. The accident pilot subsequently restarted the helicopter, and completed a 4 minute flight before departing on the accident flight, which was scheduled to last between 7 and 8 minutes. He further stated that a check of the fuel level prior to departure revealed it was "just below the 6-inch line," which he estimated corresponded to about 300 pounds of fuel on board.

Another helicopter tour company pilot operating in the area about the time of the accident reported that he did not hear any distress calls. He further stated that he recalled the accident pilot made a normal landmark position report over "wonderworks."

A witness who lived near the accident site reported that he was outside when he observed the helicopter flying low in a descent, and it "didn't sound right." He further described the sound as if "the engine was wound tight" and it "lost the rotor sound." He then heard the engine go silent, "as if the pilot cut the power," which was followed by sounds associated with impact. Another witness reported hearing the impact and observed the accident site engulfed in fire.

The helicopter initially impacted trees near the top of a ridge that was about 1,100 feet mean sea level (msl). The helicopter came to rest in a wooded area near the bottom of the ridge, on its left side, on a heading of about 340 degrees magnetic. Two large, freshly broken trees were located about 100 feet south of the main wreckage, which was mostly consumed by a postcrash fire. In addition, the entire area surrounding the main wreckage was charred.

All major structural components of the helicopter were located at the accident site. One of the two main rotor blades was separated, and located about 20 feet northwest of the main wreckage. The leading edges of both main rotor blades did not exhibit significant impact damage. Manual rotation of the main rotor blade that remained attached to the main rotor hub resulted in rotation of the main rotor mast, the engine-to-transmission drive shaft, the engine's No. 4 turbine wheel, the tail rotor drive output, and confirmed free-wheel functionality. The tail rotor drive shaft was fractured in multiple locations. The flexible couplings between the drive shaft flanges were intact and did not display evidence of fractures or deformation consistent with power at impact. The tail rotor gearbox was separated from the tail boom and located about 30 feet southeast of the main wreckage. Manual rotation of the tail rotor blades resulted in rotation of the gearbox input. The splines at the tail rotor gearbox did not exhibit evidence of fractures or smearing. All three flight control servo control linkages were fractured at multiple locations; however, the linkages remained attached to their respective input and output ends. There was no evidence of damage to the engine's first stage compressor section, or fourth stage turbine wheel.

The engine and airframe were recovered from the accident site and retained for further examination.

Initial review of maintenance records revealed that at the time of the accident, the helicopter had been operated for about 40 hours since its most recent 100 hour and annual inspections, which were performed on March 4, 2016. In addition, the helicopter had been operated for about 22,560 total hours.

The pilot reported 550 hours of total flight experience on his most recent application for a Federal Aviation Administration second-class medical certificate, which was issued on April 21, 2015. According to an initial review of the pilot's logbook, as of March 25, 2016, he had logged about 1,300 hours of total flight experience, which included about 870 hours in Bell 206 series helicopters.

A weather observation taken at airport located about 3 miles northeast of the accident site, about the time of the accident, reported: winds from 220 degrees, at 10 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 24 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 2 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.93 inches of mercury.


Jason "JD" Dahl


SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Friends and family will remember Jason "JD" Dahl on Friday. All are welcome to attend. 
 

Dahl was the pilot who was flying a sight-seeing helicopter that crashed Monday afternoon. Dahl and four others died in the crash.

The memorial service for Dahl will be at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 8, at Pathways Church in Sevierville. This is one of two services to remember Dahl.

The funeral for Dahl will be in Oregon. Dahl and his long-time girlfriend, Tessa Ashford, are from Oregon and moved to Tennessee so Dahl could "pursue his dream in aviation."

Dahl is survived by his mother Tracie Dahl, his sister Kimi Dahl, and Ashford.

The other victims in the crash were the four passengers, Johna Morvant, her two children, Peyton and Parker Rasmussen; and a friend, Michael Mastalez.







Dan Haynes, owner of Scenic Helicopter Tours
PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – Helicopter tour companies are reassuring people about safety after a helicopter crash killed five people Monday afternoon.

“Hundreds of thousands of helicopter flights over this area and there’s only been a handful of accidents. This of course is the worst,” said Dan Haynes, owner of Scenic Helicopter Tours. 
It was not one of Scenic’s helicopters that crashed. Instead it was from a competitor, Smoky Mountain Helicopters.

Haynes says crashes are so rare because of the strict safety standards they are held to.

“If people took care of their cars like we take care of a helicopter, you would never buy a new car because it would always be like a new car. Every moving part of a helicopter has to be inspected or replaced after so many hours. Some of those it doesn’t matter what condition they’re in they have to be replaced,” he said.

They are regulated by standards set by both the helicopter manufacturers and the FAA, and pilots undergo extensive training for any possible situation.

“Whatever possible emergency could happen you can deal with that, so when you think of all those things that’s probably the reason it’s so safe is because there is extensive maintenance that’s done, training that’s done,” said Haynes.

As the investigation continues into exactly what caused this helicopter to go down, the other pilots in the industry are offering condolences to those involved yesterday while reminding people it was a tragic accident.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure that people understand that this is not representative of what the helicopter industry is about. It’s a very sad tragic day, a very sad time really,” said Haynes.

Smoky Mountain Helicopters did not have anything to say Tuesday about the accident when we called and they were closed all day.

The helicopters are pretty common to see in flying the skies over Sevier County. Haynes says it is a small industry, and this accident has impacted them all. “This is the worst nightmare of a situation that you would you should ever have,” he said.

Haynes has been flying over Sevier County for nearly 30 years and said he has never seen anything as devastating as Monday’s crash.

“I’ve been doing this in this area for 29 years. I worked for my dad for 11 years. I’ve had this company out here for 18 years, and I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “We’re all affected. Every one of us here are affected by this. We’re all devastated. A piece of our hearts are all gone because of this.”


Story and video:  http://wate.com


Shannon and Reona Collins



The couple on the helicopter just one hour before it crashed.










A Laurel County couple visiting Sevier County, Tennessee for a quick getaway say they took a sightseeing tour on the same helicopter that crashed Monday.

Just an hour before the fiery crash that killed five, Shannon and Reona Collins were on the helicopter getting a bird’s eye view of the Smokies.

A total of five people died when the Bell 206-L from Smoky Mountain Helicopter crashed near Pigeon Forge Parkway.

“I posted pictures on Facebook, people started calling us and asking us if we were okay. I said ‘yeah we're okay, why?’ They said the helicopter crashed,” said Shannon.

Shannon says they had just spoke to the pilot, Jason Dahl, an hour before his death.

“My wife got all teary eyed and choked up and said, ‘listen, let's just be thankful, and let's just go home,’” said Shannon.

Shannon said Dahl told them their flight was going to be windy.

“Said, ‘we have a wind 30-40 knots. But I’ll adjust my flight path and increase the power to not make it so bumpy,’ and it was a good ride and my wife had a good time,” Shannon told LEX 18.

NTSB is now investigating the deadly crash and they have contacted Shannon and Reona about any troubles.

They say that the flight was okay and they wonder what could have happened.


Story and video:  http://www.lex18.com



The wreckage of a sightseeing helicopter that crashed Monday in Pigeon Forge, killing 5 people, was removed from the crash site on Wednesday afternoon.

The helicopter, owned and operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopter, was on what's called the "Pigeon Forge tour" on Monday when it crashed into a ridge behind the Tanger Outlet Malls and caught fire, according to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) senior investigator Luke Schiada. The tour was about 60 percent complete when the aircraft went down.

All five people on board were killed. The pilot was Jason Dahl, 38, of Sevierville, with more than 1300 hours of flight experience, according to his logs, which were examined by the NTSB. He had flown more than 870 hours in the Bell 206L helicopter, which was the model of aircraft that crashed.

His passengers were Johna Morvant, from Kodak, her two children, Peyton and Parker Rasmussen from Huntersville, North Carolina, and Peyton's boyfriend, Michael Glenn Mastalez of Prosper, Texas.

The wreckage was taken to a storage facility in Springfield, Tennessee, where investigators can do a more detailed analysis in a controlled environment, according to Schiada.

Investigators will continue to work in Sevier County, gathering information on the pilot's experience and maintenance records, looking at maintenance logs, interviewing witnesses and other pilots in the area, and reviewing weather conditions.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter flew the same route of the downed helicopter. An FAA inspector on board took aerial photos and gathered other information during that flight.

Schiada said all of the information will be gathered and put into a report that will be forwarded to the NTSB board in Washington, DC. The board will review all of the data and make a determination on the cause of the crash. It could take up to a year for the review to be complete.

There is still no information about how the victims died. The bodies were transported to the medical examiner for that determination. A witness told 10News that a man survived the crash, but he died soon after the witness reached him to try to help. 

Smoky Mountain Helicopter has been in business since the mid-1960's. Schiada said they operate two aircraft, one based in Pigeon Forge and one in Cherokee, North Carolina. They employ four full-time pilots and two mechanics in Pigeon Forge.

Story and video:  http://www.wbir.com



PIGEON FORGE — Federal investigators hauled off the wreckage of a crashed helicopter for further inspection Wednesday, two days after the sightseeing aircraft went down on a wooded ridge and killed all five people aboard.

Investigators have offered no clues so far as to what might have caused the crash that killed Johna Morvant, 49; her daughter, Peyton Rasmussen, 22; her son, Parker Rasmussen, 18; her daughter's boyfriend, Michael Glenn Mastalez, 21; and the pilot, Jason Dahl, 38.

Dahl's logbook shows he had a total of 1,300 hours of flight experience — 870 of those hours flying helicopters of the same make and model as the 1977 Bell 206L LongRanger owned by Sevierville-based Smoky Mountain Helicopters that struck the ground near the top of a ridge line behind Tanger Outlet Mall about 4:10 p.m. Monday, said Luke Schiada, National Transportation Safety Board senior safety investigator, during a briefing Wednesday.

The rotorcraft, with the pilot and four passengers aboard, came to rest about 80 feet below the top of the ridge and caught fire, igniting a small forest blaze that burned into the night.

The helicopter was last inspected about 30 days before the crash. Records show about 40 flight hours for the aircraft since then.

Smoky Mountain Helicopters operated two helicopters — the one that crashed Monday and another at a Cherokee, N.C., location — and employed four full-time pilots and two mechanics, according to the NTSB. The business has offered tours of the area since the 1960s.

NTSB officials have said determining the cause of the crash could take up to a year. A preliminary report could be available by late next week.

A small brush fire at the crash site briefly re-ignited Wednesday, but fire crews soon got the blaze under control. Investigators have been at the crash site since Tuesday.

Pigeon Forge Fire Department crews pulled some wreckage from the bottom of the nearby west prong of the Little Pigeon River. The Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team assisted the investigation with a 3-D scan of the wreckage.

The wreckage will remain at a storage facility in Springfield, Tenn.

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

This SnapChat photo shows the moments before the chopper took off on Monday.  



Johna Morvant, 49, from Kodak and her two children, Peyton and Parker Rasmussen. 


Siblings Peyton Rasmussen, 22, left, and Parker Rasmussen, 18, died in the Sevier County sightseeing helicopter crash. Their mother, Johna Morvent, and Peyton Rasmussen's boyfriend, Michael Mastelez, 21, were also on board the flight.




Peyton Rasmussen


Parker Rasmussen



PIGEON FORGE — A mother, her two grown children and her daughter's boyfriend were among the five people killed when a sightseeing helicopter crashed on a wooded ridge Monday, according to family members.

The fifth fatality, the helicopter's pilot, was identified Tuesday evening by the Pigeon Forge Police Department as 38-year-old Jason Dahl of Sevierville.

Family members say Peyton Rasmussen, 22, and her brother Parker, 18, were visiting their mother, Johna Morvent, in Kodak when the helicopter they rode in crashed during a 12-minute tour of the Smoky Mountains. Peyton Rasmussen's boyfriend, Michael Mastelez, 21, was also on board, said her father, Scott Rasmussen.

The family was originally from North Platte, Neb., and the children had been living with their father in Huntersville, N.C., Scott Rasmussen said. The mother had remarried about a year ago.

"My daughter was 22 years old and the most loving, softest-hearted daughter in the whole world," the father said. "She was a very, very, very loving daughter, and everybody who met her loved her."

Parker Rasmussen was being home-schooled, and Peyton Rasmussen was attending classes to become a medical technician, he said.

"Parker was kind of a quiet type kid," said their grandfather, Butch Rasmussen. "Peyton was the type of person who had a posse with her all the time, had a lot of friends."

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said Tuesday it could take up to a year to determine the cause of the crash.

The 1977 Bell 206L LongRanger, operated by Sevierville-based Smoky Mountain Helicopters, was on an approximately 12-minute flight when it apparently struck the ground near the top of a ridge line behind an outlet mall about 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, said Luke Schiada, NTSB senior safety investigator.

The aircraft, with the pilot and four passengers aboard, came to rest about 80 feet below the top of the ridge and caught fire, igniting a small forest blaze that burned into the night.

"The fact that the wreckage was consumed by fire does make things more complicated," said Schiada, who would not speculate on the cause.

All five people aboard were killed.

Schiada said several other aircraft were flying in the area at the time and that unconfirmed reports indicate the pilot made no distress call before the crash.

Wreckage was scattered along the ridge. Pigeon Forge Fire Department crews searched the nearby west prong of the Little Pigeon River for additional wreckage Tuesday afternoon.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team was assisting the investigation with a 3-D scan of the wreckage Tuesday.

NTSB investigators expect to be at the scene until Wednesday or Thursday. The wreckage then will be moved to a storage facility in Springfield, Tenn.

Schiada said the flight was the pilot's second of the day in that aircraft. The pilot reported 550 total hours of flight experience on his most recent medical examination filed with the Federal Aviation Administration, Schiada said. At the time, the pilot also reported he was flying about 300 hours every six months.

The helicopter is owned by Bobby W. Riggs, according to the aircraft's FAA registry. Riggs is the registered agent for M-Helicopters of Tennessee Inc., which does business as Smoky Mountain Helicopters.

The helicopter has a valid FAA registration, which is good through March 2018.

The business operates from the Sixty Six Helipad, 1101 Winfield Dunn Parkway. The helipad was found to be in compliance during its most recent inspection in October 2015, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation records.

Smoky Mountain Helicopters is one of several flight tour companies based in Sevierville.

Dan Haynes, owner and pilot of Scenic Helicopter Tours, said his company closed early out of respect for the victims of the crash. Haynes, whose company was not involved in the crash, said he could not speculate on what brought down the helicopter.

"Statistically speaking, the Bell 206 series is the safest aircraft — helicopter or fixed wing — in the world," Haynes said Monday.

In July 1996, a Scenic Helicopter Tours aircraft crashed with a Florida family of four aboard. The pilot and one of the passengers suffered minor injuries when the helicopter came down in a field behind the Pigeon Forge Outlet Mall — near the scene of the latest incident.

Another crash occurred near the Ober Gatlinburg Ski resort in 1990, injuring the pilot and his two passengers.

And a pilot was killed when his sightseeing helicopter crashed near Pine Grove outside Pigeon Forge in the late 1970s. His two passengers survived.

In March 1997, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld a state law banning heliports in "tourist" counties within nine miles of the boundary of a national park.

Smoky Mountain Helicopters owner Bobby Riggs had filed a lawsuit challenging the 1992 law as unconstitutional and a violation of federal aviation law.

The court's decision effectively moved Sevier County's existing three sightseeing tour businesses out of Pigeon Forge. The tour operators relocated to Sevierville.

Residents who live near the site of Monday's crash described a puttering noise coming from the aircraft's rotor as it went down.

Witnesses heard screams from the wreckage and saw one man roll out of the helicopter before he died.

The bodies have been taken to the Regional Forensic Center in Knoxville for autopsy, Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin said.

"That'll be the medical examiner, because it was a pretty hot fire," Baldwin said. "So that may take a while."

The crash site off Rainbow Road is separated from a residential street by the west prong of the Little Pigeon River. Spectators were still gathered in yards and back porches along the water's edge to watch the fire burn five hours after the crash.

By then, the fire had moved to the north along the ridge, away from the wreckage. A spotlight lit up the remains of the helicopter, which had been marked with pink flags by investigators.

Wilma Law was on her back porch when she first heard a puttering from the rotor that "didn't sound right," and then watched the tail of the helicopter disappear behind the tree line.

Law and her daughter, Kristy, who called E-911, followed the billowing black smoke to the crash site. They heard screams for help, Kristy Law said.

Shawn Matern was in his house when he heard a loud boom. He said he saw the helicopter on fire and a man "more or less rolling out" of the aircraft.

"He was on fire … and rolling around," Matern said. "My neighbor actually went across the river to actually check on him.

"A few minutes later he was gone."

The neighbor, who said he was an EMT, declined to speak to reporters because the event was too traumatic.

Matern said he heard another person screaming for help, but the person was trapped inside the helicopter.

"There was nothing you could do for them, you know, because they were too mangled up in there," he said. "They were burning alive."


Story and video:  http://www.knoxnews.com


NTSB investigators work on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, where a sightseeing helicopter crashed near Sevierville. Officials said five people died when the aircraft operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters crashed Monday.



The pilot is identified as 38-year-old Jason Dahl of Sevierville. Johna Morvant, 49, and her two children Peyton Rasmussen, 22, and Parker Rasmussen, 18 were in the helicopter, along with 21-year-old Michael Glenn Mastalez.

Neighbors tell Local 8 News that Morvant's new husband was out of town. He is on the way back to East Tennessee now.

Butch Rasmussen says the children were living in North Carolina and were visiting their mother when they took a helicopter sightseeing tour at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The helicopter crashed Monday at about 3:30 p.m. It went down near Rainbow Road.

A preliminary report should be available next week.

Story and video: http://www.local8now.com


NTSB and FAA investigators work on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, where a sightseeing helicopter crashed near Sevierville. Officials said five people died when the aircraft operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters crashed Monday.



(PIGEON FORGE) - Federal officials have taken over the investigation into what caused a sightseeing helicopter crash in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. that killed five people Monday afternoon.

The NTSB and FAA arrived on scene Tuesday morning and plan to give an update at 3 p.m. Tuesday. 

Local authorities notified the FAA about the crash around 3:30 p.m. Officials told the FAA that a Bell 206 sightseeing helicopter was destroyed by fire. No word yet on who it is registered to. 

"There was not much left of the helicopter," said Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin near the scene. "There's just a small piece of the tailwing and that's about what's left of the helicopter." He said one person was appeared to be thrown from the chopper in the crash.

"I came out and that's when I saw the second explosion and I go 'What was that?'" said witness Shawn Matern. "'That's when I came over closer and saw the guy rolling out of the helicopter screaming 'Help me! Help me!'"

Witnesses reported hearing explosions and seeing fire after the crash.

"A couple of our neighbors went over the river to see how he was doing," Matern said. "The guy asked him 'Are you still with me?' And the guy just shook his head, he raised his hand and the next few minutes he passed away."

According to FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, local authorities "will release the number of people on board, their names and conditions."

Then, the FAA will release the helicopter registration, according to Bergen.

The crash also sparked a forest fire that created massive plumes of smoke. 

The Pigeon Forge Fire Department as well as six or seven other departments were responding to the scene.

The Tennessee Forestry Division also responded to the scene because the crash started a fire in the woods. 

As of 8:45 p.m., the fire had been mostly contained. According to Nathan Waters, a spokesperson from Tennessee Forestry Division, it only burned about two to three acres. They worked Monday night to complete the fire lines to prevent it from spreading. 

"We've just been trying to stay as far out of the way [of investigators] as possible," Waters said.

By late afternoon Monday, dozens of cars were parked across the river on Riverview Circle. Many drove there to share in the mourning of five lives. A number of cars drove by Tuesday morning too. 

"At first, I thought it was just another brush fire, but then when I realized what was happening, it was very, very upsetting," said BJ Ellington, another witness. "I felt like I just needed to come here. I know I can’t do anything but I needed to be here."

"I think everybody’s pretty devastated," Ellington said.

Story and video:  http://www.wbir.com


National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge Luke Schiada addresses the media Tuesday, April 5, at the site of a helicopter crash that killed five people a day earlier.

Members of the Pigeon Forge Fire Department swift water rescue team recover a piece of helicopter crash wreckage from the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, near Sevierville. Officials said five people died when the aircraft operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters crashed Monday. 





3:22 p.m.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board confirm that five people were killed when a helicopter from Smoky Mountain Helicopters crashed, hitting a ridge line and catching fire. They said state police will release the names of the five killed in Monday’s crash.

The tail number is N16760, which is the same one featured on Smoky Mountain Helicopter’s website. Officials said the helicopter was made in 1977 and pilot had logged more than 500 hours flying last year.

The NTSB said they are finishing a preliminary report on the crash in the next week, but the investigation into the cause of the crash could take up to a year.

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – The Pigeon Forge Chief of Police Jack H. Baldwin confirms to WATE 6 On Your Side that five people were killed in a sightseeing helicopter that crashed.

“Apparently this helicopter came out sometime around 3:30 p.m. this afternoon and all passengers are deceased,” said Baldwin. “The FAA will be coming in sometime tomorrow morning to do their investigation of the crash.”

Baldwin said fire departments are working to put out a fire caused by the helicopter, which was completely destroyed. The fire has caught some of the hill on Rainbow Road, where the helicopter crashed, on fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. The FAA also released the following statement:

Local authorities notified the FAA that a Bell 206 sightseeing helicopter crashed near Sevierville, TN at 3:30 pm local time today. Officials said it was destroyed by fire. Local authorities will release the number of people on board, their names and conditions. The FAA will release the helicopter registration after that. We will update this statement when we get new information.

Story and video:  http://wate.com
















PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- According to emergency dispatch, a helicopter crashed in Sevier County on Monday afternoon.

The FAA says the helicopter was a Bell 206 sightseeing helicopter that crashed at 3:30 p.m. Officials say it was destroyed by fire.

The Pigeon Forge Police Department Chief Jack Baldwin says there's not much left in the wreck scene. A fire started at the crash scene and is spreading up the mountain.

He said this is the worst helicopter crash he's ever seen.

The owner of Smoky Mountain Helicopters says five people people died in the crash. The group was on a sight-seeing ride as part of a popular tourist activity. The crash happened on Rainbow Road in Sevierville.

The first call came in at 4:15 p.m.

Emergency responders from Pigeon Forge are working the scene.

According to the Smoky Mountains Helicopters' website, the company has been offering tours of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and surrounding areas since 1964.

Story and video: http://www.local8now.com

















A sightseeing helicopter crashed Monday near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, killing all five people aboard, officials said.

The Bell 206 helicopter crashed about 3:30 p.m. near Sevierville, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email. Officials said the tourist helicopter was destroyed by fire after the crash.

"There's not much left of the helicopter," Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin said. "It's pretty much gone from the fire."

Baldwin said the helicopter appeared to have come down the side of a mountain and crashed at the foot of it.

"There's a little bit of the tail fin of the helicopter, and that's about all that's left, that and the console, that's about it," he said.

About four hours after the crash, more than a dozen emergency vehicles were at the site, which is less than a mile from a large outlet mall in Sevierville and adjacent to a neighborhood off the main tourist drag. The site is about three miles from Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park.

Smoke billowed over the wooded area. The Pigeon Forge Fire Department said it had units at the scene.

Shawn Matern said he was inside his parents' house when he heard a loud boom. "That's when we came out and saw the second explosion right before our eyes," he said.

He said he saw the pilot roll out of the burning helicopter on the ground and a neighbor went to try to help.

Matern said the tour helicopters fly over at least three or four times a day in that area.

Tennessee Emergency Management Association spokesman Dean Flener confirmed late Monday afternoon that five people had died. Flener said no homes were damaged and no one on the ground was injured when the helicopter went down.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris O'Neil says two investigators from the agency are headed to the scene of the crash.

Representatives from Bell Helicopter, Textron Aviation, Rolls Royce and the FAA are also going to the scene.

Gary C. Robb, a Kansas City attorney who wrote a book on helicopter crash litigation, says it's far too early to determine the cause of the Sevierville crash, but some helicopter tour operators have been known to be reckless to "thrill the tourists" by flying too close to trees or waterfalls or by dangerous maneuvers.

Original article can be found here: http://abcnews.go.com