Friday, August 04, 2017

Robinson R44 II, N4138M, registered to and operated by Bering Air Inc: Accident occurred August 03, 2017 in Solomon, Alaska

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Bering Air Inc:

NTSB Identification: ANC17LA040
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Thursday, August 03, 2017 in Solomon, AK
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44, registration: N4138M
Injuries: 2 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 August 3, 2017, about 1032 Alaska daylight time, a Robinson R-44 Clipper II helicopter, N4138M, impacted water and sank while dropping mineral claim markers about 1 mile south of Solomon, Alaska. The commercial pilot and passenger sustained no injury, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by, Bering Air, Inc., Nome, Alaska, as a visual flight rules flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 on-demand charter flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated from the Nome Airport, Nome, about 0845. 

The pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to place mineral claim markers, which involved maneuvering the helicopter over a Global Positioning System (GPS) point where the passenger can drop the marker from the rear left seat of the helicopter. Some of the mineral claim corners are in water, and the placement of those markers must be offset to the nearest land mass. The pilot departed from the Nome Airport and arrived at the passenger's private residence about 4 miles east of Nome. The helicopter was shutdown, the pilot briefed the flight to the passenger, 23 markers were loaded onboard the helicopter, and the helicopter departed. 

With about half the markers left to drop, the helicopter was operating over a lagoon between the mainland and a sand barrier, at about 10 to 15 feet above the water. The pilot reported that he was lower than he should have been and lost situational awareness when he was working with the GPS unit. He inadvertently allowed the helicopter to descend into the water "in a more level or slight nose low attitude" and the helicopter was not maneuvering at the time. He further reported that he must have pushed forward on the cyclic as he leaned forward to manipulate the GPS unit. After the helicopter impacted water, the helicopter rolled, and came to rest on its right side in about 4 feet of water. The pilot and passenger egressed without further incident and waded to the shore with the helicopter occupant survival bag and satellite phone. The pilot contacted the operator with the satellite phone and a second company helicopter was dispatched to pick up the pilot and passenger about 1200.

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

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

At the time of the accident, the helicopter was not equipped with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved radio altimeter or a FAA approved device that incorporates a radio altimeter as required by 14 CFR Part 135.160 Radio Altimeters for Rotorcraft Operations. The operator was operating with a Letter of Deviation Authority approved by the FAA.

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