Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Schweizer 269C-1, N1549W, operated by Gulf Coast Helicopters Inc: Fatal accident occurred August 03, 2016 in Jeanerette, Iberia Parish, Louisiana

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA304
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 03, 2016 in Jeanerette, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/06/2017
Aircraft: SCHWEIZER 269C 1, registration: N1549W
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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.

The commercial pilot was completing a scheduled biweekly patrol of a series of intersecting pipelines. When the helicopter failed to arrive as scheduled, a search was initiated. The helicopter was located partially submerged in a remote, thickly wooded cypress swamp. The damage to the helicopter and to surrounding trees indicated that the helicopter was in a near-vertical descent with a nose-down attitude at impact. 

Examination of the helicopter and engine revealed no evidence of preimpact discrepancies or anomalies, and damage to the main rotor blades was consistent with the engine producing power at impact. Review of weather information revealed that there was a large thunderstorm complex in the area, but it did not extend over the accident site. The closest weather station, located about 18 miles from the accident site, was reporting visual flight rules to marginal flight rules conditions due to light rain and a broken-to-overcast cloud layer. Due to an overcast layer of high cirriform clouds over the accident site, it was not possible to determine if any low clouds were in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. The circumstances of the accident are consistent with a loss of control by the pilot. The reason for the pilot's loss of helicopter control could not be determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's loss of helicopter control for reasons that could not be determined based on available evidence.

Casey Clark 
Great Falls, Montana
December 5, 1986 - August 4, 2016 (Age 29)



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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Sikorsky; Stratford, Connecticut
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

Gulf Coast Helicopters Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N1549W 




NTSB Identification: CEN16FA304
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 03, 2016 in Jeanerette, LA
Aircraft: SCHWEIZER 269C 1, registration: N1549W
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 3, 2016, about 1047 central daylight time, a Schweizer 269C-1 helicopter, N1549W, was destroyed when it impacted trees in swampy terrain near Jeanerette, Louisiana. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The flight was being operated by Gulf Coast Helicopters, Inc., as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 pipeline patrol flight, and no flight plan had been filed. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the low-altitude cross-country flight. The flight originated from the Louisiana Regional Airport (L38), Gonzales, Louisiana, about 0730 and was destined for the Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport (PTN), Patterson, Louisiana.

The helicopter was completing a scheduled biweekly patrol of a series of intersecting pipelines. When the helicopter failed to arrive at PTN, the operator notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). An alert notice was issued, and a search was initiated. The helicopter wreckage was found the next day partially submerged in the Atchafalaya Basin, a remote, thickly wooded cypress swamp, about 15 miles east of Jeanerette, Louisiana.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rotorcraft-helicopter rating. He was not instrument rated although he had logged 5 hours in simulated instrument meteorological conditions. His second-class airman medical certificate, dated April 24, 2015, contained the restriction: "Must wear corrective lenses."

The pilot's logbook was recovered from the submerged wreckage. It contained entries from August 8, 2012, through August 2, 2016. The pilot had successfully completed the practical test for a commercial pilot certificate on March 29, 2015, and according to the FAA, this met the biennial flight review requirements of 61.56 (d). At that time, the pilot had accumulated about 427 hours of flight experience.

According to Gulf Coast Helicopters, the pilot was hired on June 8, 2015. At that time, he had logged a total of about 488 hours of flight experience. The operator reported that most of the pilot's activity in the past year was pipeline patrol with most of that flying about 500 ft above ground level.

Based on a review of the pilot's logbook, his most recent FAA airman medical certification application, information provided by the operator, the helicopter's daily logs, and other records, the pilot's flight experience on August 2, 2016, was estimated to be 1,611 total flight hours, all of which were in helicopters and more than 800 hours of which were in the Schweizer 269. The pilot had logged 1,069 hours in the last 12 months, 225 hours in the last 3 months, 72 hours in the last 30 days, and 8 hours in the last 24 hours.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The helicopter, serial number 0219, was manufactured by the Schweizer Helicopter Corporation in 2005. It was powered by a Lycoming HIO-360-G1A engine (serial number RL-29952-51E), rated at 180 horsepower. Power from the engine was transmitted through eight drive belts and two drive shafts to the three-bladed main rotor and the two-bladed tail rotor. The helicopter had a gross weight of 1,750 pounds.

According to the maintenance records, the helicopter's last annual inspection was on September 20, 2015, and the last 100-hour inspection was on July 28, 2016, when the helicopter had accrued 5,595.4 flight hours. The engine was remanufactured by Lycoming on March 6, 2013, and it had accrued 4,199.2 flight hours at that time.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The National Weather Service forecast chart indicated that scattered rain showers and thunderstorms were expected over southeastern Louisiana with summer air mass type convection. The surface analysis chart with a satellite composite image overlaid for 1000 depicted a large circular area of enhanced clouds associated with convective clouds or thunderstorms over southeastern Louisiana; the accident site was located adjacent to the eastern edge of this area. The area indicated an anticyclonic or clockwise wind flow. Cloud cover ranged from clear skies over the northern and western portions of Louisiana to overcast skies over the New Orleans area with thunderstorms and rain being depicted in that area. The national composite radar mosaic for 1045 depicted a large area of intense-to-extreme intensity echoes over southeast Louisiana with the strong portion of the echoes between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Only very light intensity echoes were depicted bordering the accident site eastward.

The closest weather reporting facility was the destination, PTN, located about 18 miles south of the accident site. At 1056, PTN reported visibility 5 miles in moderate rain and mist, a few clouds at 8,000 ft, ceiling overcast at 10,000 ft, and lightning distant northeast, east, and southeast. A thunderstorm began at 0957 and ended at 1019. Another thunderstorm began at 1021 and ended at 1049. Rain began at 1002, ended at 1012, and began again at 1029. Visual flight rules (VFR) to marginal VFR (MVFR) conditions prevailed at the station due to the light rain and broken to overcast cloud layer. The next closest weather reporting facility was Acadiana Regional Airport (ARA), New Iberia, Louisiana, located about 25 miles west of the accident site. At 1053, ARA reported VFR conditions with clear to partly cloudy skies with no thunderstorms reported. The next closest weather reporting location was the departure airport, L38, located about 26 miles north-northeast of the accident site. At 1035, L38 reported thunderstorms with light rain and lightning distant in all quadrants.

At 1045, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite number 13 depicted a large cluster of cumulonimbus clouds over southeast Louisiana with cloud tops near 45,000 ft. The enhanced cloud centers were located northeast through east and southwest of the accident site. The accident site was under the anvil outflow or cirrostratus clouds from the cumulonimbus cloud system. Strong active convection was noted in the system to the east of Baton Rouge and off the Louisiana coast with overshooting cloud tops. The overcast cloud cover over the accident site was associated with high cirriform clouds. Due to the extensive cloud cover, it was not possible to determine if any low clouds were in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. 

The accident site was on the border between the forecasts for southwestern and southeastern Louisiana. The forecast for the southwestern portion of the state expected scattered clouds at 3,000 ft, light winds, and no convective activity. The forecast for the southeastern portion expected scattered to broken clouds at 4,000 ft with tops to 14,000 ft with isolated thunderstorms and light rain. The cumulonimbus clouds tops were expected to reach 45,000 ft. The quantitative precipitation forecast indicated a chance of precipitation between 0.01 to 0.10 inches over the accident site.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The helicopter was partially submerged in the swamp in a nose-down attitude. There was a hole in the overhead trees, consistent with a steep descent. There were also blade strike marks on the tree trunks. The wreckage was recovered and transported to Air Salvage of Dallas, Lancaster, Texas, where it was further examined on August 31, 2016.

The tailboom was intact but separated from the steel tube frame. The main rotor blades were bent and separated. There was impact damage to the aft cabin wall, bulkhead, and forward side of fuel tanks. The seat deck assembly was compressed and folded back toward the aft cabin wall. The aft cabin wall was deformed and pushed aft. The forward sides of both fuel tanks were compressed and deformed, and the aft portions were intact and remained relatively in their original shapes. The mast was intact. The forward bulkhead mount tabs were fractured. The canted horizontal stabilizer was not present. The forward attach fitting remained attached to the tailboom. The lower vertical stabilizer was crushed and deflected to the right with a large rounded dent, which deformed the boom and was oriented about 90° to the longitudinal centerline of the tailboom. 

The landing gear was damaged. Neither of the forward skids were present for examination. The left side forward strut was not recovered. All remaining struts and damper attach points exhibited damage consistent with the landing gear assembly being pushed aft. The aft crossbeam was intact and relatively straight. The forward crossbeam was bowed aft in the center section but remained straight in the outer ends. The right hand drag strut was straight and fractured at the aft rod end bearing threads. The left drag strut was bent in the middle nearly 90° with the forward end remaining attached to the crossbeam and aft end to the aft strut.

The yellow and red main rotor blades were bent in a spanwise downward direction. The blue blade separated near the root and exhibited minor downward bending, trailing edge wrinkles, and peeled upper skin near the tip. The red blade was bent up at the root with tearing and separation, and bent down about 90° midspan and down again about 90° near the tip. The yellow blade was bent down about 90° midspan and down about 30° near the tip. Both tail rotor blades were intact, straight, exhibited only minor damage, and remained attached to the hub. The main rotor head was intact and attached to the drive shaft. The swashplate was intact. The rotating scissors links were intact. The rotor head turned freely in the mast bearing. All three pitch housings remained attached to the main rotor hub. The pitch shaft droop stop lugs were intact and appeared straight. All three pitch housings rotated smoothly, flapped smoothly, and exhibited signs of contact with the upper hub, indicative of full-up flapping motion. All three main rotor dampers were attached at the pitch housings and the blade roots. The pitch change links were intact. The droop stop assembly was intact.

The tail rotor fork and teetering bolt were intact. The assembly teetered properly. The pitch control unit was intact, rotated freely, and slid in and out on the pinion. It was attached to the pitch links, which were straight. The control bell crank was engaged in the pitch control housing and attached to the tail gearbox and the control rod. The tail rotor gearbox remained attached to the tailboom adapter, rotated, and exhibited continuity. The tail rotor drive shaft was bent at the forward bulkhead, and the drive adapter splines were intact. The main gearbox housing was intact, rotated freely, and exhibited continuity. The belt drive assembly was intact and did not exhibit damage. The upper pulley rotated and engaged the overrunning clutch properly. All pulleys were intact, all bearings turned, and the belts were intact. The engine drive shaft was undamaged. There was no evidence of preimpact discrepancies or anomalies with the airframe.

The engine was generally intact. The fuel servo, engine-driven fuel pump, and the right magneto were still attached. Both magnetos were installed on a magneto test bench and rotated up to 2,000 rpm but no sparks were observed. The technician stated that the magnetos were probably not functioning due to internal corrosion caused by water submersion. The spark plugs were removed, and the engine rotated, producing thumb compression on all cylinders. Valve motion was noted on all cylinders. Fuel was found in the servo fuel screen, and no water was present. The electric boost pump was seized; the engine-driven fuel pump operated and pumped liquid; the gascolator was intact with some gas and water present; and the screen was not blocked. The fuel injector and the inlet fuel screen were clear. Fuel injector nozzles 1 and 3 were plugged with a foreign substance. Cylinder nozzle 2 was impact damaged. The remainder of the nozzles were clear and unobstructed. All fuel lines were secure, and the fittings were tight. Fuel and water was observed throughout the engine fuel system. Oil was observed in and around the engine during the engine examination. The oil system was complete and intact with no preimpact defects noted. The oil suction screen was contaminated with carbon deposits and plant material. Nothing was observed during the examination that would have precluded the engine from operating normally before impact.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

According to the Louisiana Forensic Center's autopsy report, the pilot's cause of death was "blunt force injuries." 


According to the toxicology screen performed by the FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, no carbon monoxide or drugs were detected in the pilot's blood. A cyanide test was not performed. The pilot tested positive for ethanol: 71 mg/dL in brain tissue, 60 mg/dL in muscle tissue, and 54 mg/dL in blood. N-butanol was detected in blood, and N-propanol was detected in muscle, brain tissue, and blood. According to the laboratory, the ethanol, N-butanol, and N-propanol were most likely the byproducts of postmortem putrefaction.

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA304
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 03, 2016 in Jenerette, LA
Aircraft: SCHWEIZER 269C 1, registration: N1549W
Injuries: 1 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 August 3, 2016, about 1047 central daylight time, a Schweizer 269C-1 helicopter, N1549W, was substantially damaged after impacting trees and terrain during a low-altitude cross-country flight near Jeanerette, Louisiana. The pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Gulf Coast Helicopters, Inc.; Pearland, Texas, as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 pipeline patrol flight. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had not been filed. The helicopter had departed Louisiana Regional Airport (L38), Gonzales, Louisiana, about 0730 and was destined for Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport (KPTN), Patterson, Louisiana.

The helicopter was completing a scheduled bi-weekly patrol of a series of intersecting pipelines. After the helicopter failed to arrive at KPTN the operator became concerned and notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). An alert notice (ALNOT) was issued which directed an extensive communication search for the overdue, unreported, or missing aircraft.

Coordination between FAA air traffic control (ATC), the U. S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), and volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), resulted in several volunteer CAP cell phone forensic specialists being able to track cell phone data and determine the general area of the most recent location of the pilot's cell phone. After an extensive airborne search by numerous aircraft, the crashed and partially submerged helicopter was found on the following day in a remote thickly wooded cypress swamp in the Atchafalaya Basin about 15 miles east from Jeanerette, Louisiana.

The closest official weather reporting station was at KPTN, located 17 miles south from the accident location. At 1021 the Automated Surface Observation System at KPTN, reported wind from 060 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, few clouds at 5,000 feet, scattered clouds at 12,000 feet, temperature 24 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 22 degrees C, with an altimeter setting of 30.09 inches of Mercury. Notations indicated the presence of lightning, thundershowers, and rain in the area.

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