Friday, October 6, 2017

Bell 47G-5, N3285T, registered to and operated by Wilbur-Ellis Co: Accident occurred September 17, 2017 in Salinas, Monterey County, California

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Jose, California

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

Wilbur-Ellis Co: http://registry.faa.gov/N3285T

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA206
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Sunday, September 17, 2017 in Salinas, CA
Aircraft: BELL 47G 5, registration: N3285T
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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 September 17, 2017, about 0700 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Bell 47G-5 helicopter, N3285T, was substantially damaged when it impacted a wire and terrain while maneuvering about 3 miles west of Salinas, California. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant of the helicopter, had minor injuries. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Wilbur-Ellis, Co., under provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The local aerial application flight originated from a loading area near the accident site a few minutes before the accident.

According to the pilot, this was the second field of the day that he was treating, and the first pass of the field when the helicopter collided with a support wire. He recalled that after the helicopter was loaded with chemicals, he departed and flew around a large power transmission line tower to the east of the field. He had planned to fly the first pass from the northeast side and spray the middle of the field to the southwest. He remembers looking for vehicle traffic that runs along the edge of the field before crossing under the smaller powerlines supported by 40-foot power poles that parallel the road. He did not recall seeing the support wire on the 40-foot power poles prior to the accident. He further reported that he had been spraying this field for the last 20 years, and that the weather was not an issue on the morning of the accident.

A postaccident examination of the helicopter was conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The main rotor assembly was observed separated from the helicopter, and remnants of the support wire was found wrapped around the main drive shaft. The examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

The large power transmission line towers are positioned from the southwest to the northeast and parallel the southeast edge of the field being treated. The 40-foot poles that support power, telephone and data transmission lines, run southeast to a northwest direction and parallel the northeast edge of the field being sprayed. A support wire was installed at a height of about 20 feet up the 40-foot poles for attaching a larger cable data line. The data line had not been installed in this stretch of line.

The 0653 automated weather observation from Salinas Municipal Airport (SNS), Salinas, California, located about 5 miles east of the accident site included wind 180 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 9 miles, overcast at 900 feet, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point 13 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.95 inches of mercury.

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