Friday, August 04, 2017

Eurocopter AS 350B3 Ecureuil, N351SH: Fatal accident occurred March 27, 2021 and Accident occurred August 03, 2017

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.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska
Federal Aviation Administration; Fort Worth, Texas
Safran Helicopter Engines; Grand Prairie, Texas
Airbus Helicopters USA; Grand Prairie, Texas 

Location: Palmer, AK 
Accident Number: WPR21FA143
Date & Time: March 27, 2021, 18:35 Local
Registration: N351SH
Aircraft: Airbus Helicopters AS350-B3
Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled

On March 27, 2021, about 1835 Alaska daylight time, an Airbus Helicopters AS350-B3, N351SH, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Palmer, Alaska. The pilot and four passengers were fatally injured, and one passenger was seriously injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Aviation Regulations Part 135 on-demand charter flight.

Representatives from the operator reported that the helicopter was contracted by a local lodge to transport passengers from a private residence on Wasilla Lake, Wasilla, Alaska, to the Chugach Mountain Range to conduct heli-ski operations.

Data obtained from a handheld global positioning system (GPS) unit showed that the helicopter departed Wasilla Airport about 1440 and arrived at the Wasilla Lake residence about 10 minutes later. About 53 minutes later, the helicopter departed the residence and flew toward the Chugach Mountains. The helicopter arrived at the intended operating area about 19 minutes later and subsequently flew multiple legs from 1612 and 1807.

The GPS data showed that the helicopter departed again at 1827:05 on a northwest heading and climbed to about 5,900 ft mean sea level (msl).

The data showed that the helicopter’s final movements began about 1833 over a ridgeline at 6,266 ft msl (about 14 ft agl), at a groundspeed of 1 kt. The helicopter maintained a low altitude and groundspeed as it maneuvered over the ridgeline for the next few minutes. The data track ceased at 1836:42 near the final resting point of the main wreckage. 

A representative from the operator stated that the helicopter was due to return to its base at 2000. Once it had not returned, they initiated their company procedures for an overdue aircraft. The wreckage was located by helicopter about 2130.

An aerial assessment of the accident site by a National Transportation Safety Board investigator the day after the accident revealed that the helicopter impacted terrain about 15 to 20 ft below the top of a ridge line. The total debris field extended about 900 ft downslope from the top of the ridge line. 

The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Airbus Helicopters
Registration: N351SH
Model/Series: AS350-B3
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft external load (133), On-demand air taxi (135)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAAQ,230 ft msl
Observation Time: 18:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 23 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 1°C /-12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 330°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.89 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Wasilla, AK 
Destination: Palmer, AK 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal, 1 Serious 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 61.451718,-148.36552 (est)

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 Zachary Russell

A contracted helicopter carrying guides and guests from a lodge on a heli-skiing trip in Southcentral Alaska’s backcountry crashed Saturday evening, killing the pilot and four others, including the Czech Republic’s richest man.

The only other person onboard was in serious but stable condition Sunday night at an Anchorage hospital, Alaska State Troopers said.

The five killed in the crash were identified as Gregory Harms, 52, of Colorado; Petr Kellner, 56, and Benjamin Larochaix, 50, both of the Czech Republic; and two Alaskans, Sean McManamy, 38, of Girdwood, and the pilot, Zachary Russell, 33, of Anchorage, troopers said Sunday.

The five passengers included three guests and two guides from Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, said lodge spokeswoman Mary Ann Pruitt.

The only survivor of the crash was identified by a Czech media outlet as David Horvath, a 48-year-old Czech snowboarder. Alaska State Troopers did not immediately respond Monday to a request for more information about the survivor. Horvath remained in serious condition at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Monday, a hospital spokesman said.

Kellner was a billionaire businessman and financier with a net worth over $17 billion, according to the Forbes 2020 list of the world’s richest people.

Kellner owned a 98.93% stake in the PPF Group, an international investment company. The group operates in 25 countries in Europe, Asia and North America with assets of $52 billion. PPF Group confirmed Kellner’s death.

“His professional life was known for his incredible work ethic and creativity, but his private life belonged to his family,” a message posted on the PPF Group website said.

The funeral is planned for only close family members, and the company asked the media to respect the privacy of the family.

Kellner and Larochaix “were loyal and frequent” guests at the lodge, Pruitt said in an email to the Associated Press.

Harms was a pioneering heli-ski guide in Alaska and worked for many years at the lodge, Pruitt said. “Greg was one of the most experienced guides in the business,” she said. He also founded a heli-ski company that led trips across the world.

McManamy had been a guide for over 10 years, and was with the lodge for the last five, she said. He was also an avalanche instructor and an experienced mountain guide on Denali, North America’s tallest peak.

Russell was a pilot for Soloy Helicopters, a Wasilla-based company that is contracted by the lodge to provide transportation, Pruitt said.

“This news is devastating to our staff, the community in which we operate and the families of the deceased,” a statement released by the lodge said.

The Eurocopter AS50 crashed at 6:35 p.m. Saturday under unknown circumstances near Knik Glacier, about 50 miles northeast of Anchorage in the Chugach Mountains and about 21 miles southeast of Palmer, said Clint Johnson, chief of the Alaska office of the National Transportation Safety Board, which will investigate the crash.

“It’s in an area of very steep terrain, snow-covered terrain, right around 5,000 to 6,000 feet ... on the north side of Knik river,” he said.

“The mode we’re in now is to recover the wreckage,” he said. He said the goal was to get the recovery done quickly, before the arrival of a forecasted snowstorm.

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is about 60 miles northwest of Anchorage. The lodge bills itself as a luxury multisport resort, and offers guided heli-skiing packages through the winter that start at $15,000 per person.

The statement from lodge said this was the first time in its 17 years in business “we’ve had to face an event of this measure.”

Soloy Helicopters has a fleet of 19 helicopters providing charter services primarily in Alaska.

Its website says it provides support to government and industry, specializing in work for seismic oil drilling exploration programs. Soloy Helicopters did not immediately respond to an email to The Associated Press seeking comment Sunday.

Alaska State Troopers said in a statement Sunday that they received a report of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris Saturday night.

A rescue team from Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was dispatched to the crash site in the area of Knik Glacier just after 10 p.m., troopers wrote. The team arrived to find five occupants dead and a sole survivor, who was taken to a hospital.

The Alaska Army National Guard and volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group recovered the bodies from the crash site Sunday and turned them over to the state medical examiner.

A temporary flight restriction placed over the glacier has been lifted, troopers said.

Location: Knik Glacier
Type: Rotorcraft Crash

Update 3/28 1650

The Alaska Army National Guard and volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group have recovered the deceased from the helicopter crash site near Knik Glacier. 

Next of kin for the deceased have been notified, and they are identified as:

52-year-old Colorado resident Gregory Harms
56-year-old Czech Republic resident Petr Kellner
50-year-old Czech Republic resident Benjamin Larochaix
38-year-old Girdwood, Alaska resident Sean McMannany
33-year-old Anchorage, Alaska resident Zach Russel (pilot) 

The injured passenger remains in serious but stable condition and is receiving medical care at an Anchorage area hospital. 

The helicopter was an Airbus AS350B3 owned by Soloy Helicopters of Wasilla, Alaska. 

The group is believed to have been heli-skiing in the area. 

The NTSB will conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash. 

The deceased have been turned over to the Alaska State Medical Examiner. 

The Temporary Flight Restriction that was in place over the Knik Glacier area has been lifted.

The Alaska State Troopers would like to thank the volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and our partners at the Alaska Army National Guard for their assistance in the recovery operations. 

Update 3/28 1211: A temporary flight restriction is currently in place from 1100 hrs 3/28 to 1100 hrs 3/29 near Knik Glacier for a recovery mission. Pilots should avoid the area. More information and detailed coordinates can be found at:

Original: On March 27, 2021, at approximately 2200 hours, Alaska State Troopers were notified of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris in the area of Knik Glacier. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center dispatched a rescue team who located the crash site. The rescuers found a sole survivor at the crash site and transported the individual for medical care; the survivor is currently in serious but stable condition. Five other occupants of the helicopter were found deceased. The Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Army National Guard, and Alaska Mountain Rescue Group will attempt recovery efforts at the crash site today. Next of kin notifications are ongoing. The NTSB will be conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash.

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fairbanks, Alaska
Bureau d’EnquĂȘtes et d’Analyses; Paris
Airbus Helicopters; Grand Prairie, Texas
Safran Helicopter Engines; Grand Prairie, Texas

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Delta Junction, Alaska
Accident Number: ANC17CA041
Date & Time: August 3, 2017
Registration: N351SH
Aircraft: Airbus AS350 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled


The helicopter pilot reported that he was transporting a passenger to a remote drilling site where a tracked drilling unit was stationed. He reported that he landed into the wind, which necessitated descending over bordering trees into the drilling site. The helicopter touched down on the dirt, and upon lowering the collective, he reported that he heard a "bang," and the helicopter slowly started to "pick up a ground wobble." The pilot shut down the helicopter, and both occupants exited without further incident.

A postaccident inspection revealed that the blue and red main rotor blades sustained substantial damage from impacting a black 1.5-inch steel frame attached to the tracked drilling unit, which is used to mount a canvas weather shelter for the drilling crews. The pilot reported that the steel frame was not visible to him from above as he was descending into the drilling site. The pilot further reported that he had made multiple landings at the drilling site in the past 3 months and that, with the previous landings, he had
landed farther past the tracked drilling unit, and the steel frame was always behind the helicopter.

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

The Federal Aviation Administration Helicopter Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-21A, 2012) discusses high and low reconnaissance procedures and states, in part:

The purpose of conducting a high reconnaissance is to determine direction and speed of the wind, a touchdown point, suitability of the landing area, approach and departure axes, and obstacles for both the approach and departure.

A low reconnaissance is accomplished during the approach to the landing area. When flying the approach, verify what was observed in the high reconnaissance, and check for anything new that may have been missed at a higher altitude, such as wires and their supporting structures (poles, towers, etc.), slopes, and small crevices.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from a steel frame attached to a tracked drilling unit. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to visually identify the steel frame during the reconnaissance process.


Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot
Environmental issues Ground equipment - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight
Landing Miscellaneous/other
Landing Collision during takeoff/land (Defining event)
Landing Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial 
Age: 64, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter 
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: May 12, 2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: May 12, 2017
Flight Time: (Estimated) 14998 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2300 hours (Total, this make and model), 14800 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 340 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 167 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Airbus
Registration: N351SH
Model/Series: AS350 B3 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2008 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 4598
Landing Gear Type: Skid
Seats: 6
Date/Type of Last Inspection: June 19, 2017 100 hour 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 4961 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Turbo shaft
Airframe Total Time: 3823.7 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Safran Helicopter Engines
ELT: C126 installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: Arriel 2B1
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 847 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft external load (133), On-demand air taxi (135), Agricultural aircraft (137)
Operator Does Business As: SOLOY HELICOPTERS, LLC
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC) 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PABI,1277 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 35 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 20:53 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 217°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 6500 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 11000 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 13 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  / None
Wind Direction: 180° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.12 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 8°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: DELTA JUNCTION, AK (76AK)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Destination: DELTA JUNCTION, AK (76AK)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None 
Latitude, Longitude:  64.467781,-144.914993(est)

1 comment:

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