Friday, September 29, 2017

Mooney Summit V: Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (KECP), Panama City, Bay County, Florida

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - This weekend, more than 100 pilots are gathering in Panama City Beach for the Mooney Summit.

"We try to make pilots more efficient, more competent, and we do this through education," Co-Director Ronald Dubin said. "I think we're one of the only events in the country that everything is completely free."

A Mooney is a small, propeller-driven aircraft.

Instead of driving, many pilots actually flew their Mooney to the gathering.

"They pull their planes up, they get a rental car," Dubin said. "We have a shuttle service for them if they don't want that and they learn. We educate them."

Officials said this is the biggest Mooney gathering in the United States. People came from all over, including one pilot from England.

"I was 17 when I first saw a picture of a Mooney and it was black," Andrew Hyett said. "I've wanted one ever since... you know, this was THE plane."

Hyett said the Mooney is the Ferrari of planes.

"There are no speed limits, so I can do 240 knots in my plane, perfectly happily," Hyett said.

"Any problem you have, you look down and you realize your problems are not that significant," Dubin said.

There will be a Mooney formation flight over Panama City Beach Saturday at around 5:30 p.m.

More information is available on

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$15 million budget approved by Collier Mosquito Control


A helicopter may be added to Collier County's arsenal in its fight against mosquitoes, along with other new resources. 

Mosquitoes are a constant concern and have been especially after all of the water left behind from Hurricane Irma.

With more rain in the forecast for the weekend, standing water plus debris equals a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. 

To keep the pesky bugs at bay, the Collier County Mosquito Control District approved a nearly $15 million budget Thursday night.  

What that means for the average taxpayer in the county is more than doubling of the amount previously paid, from $25 to about $55. 

One item proposed in the new budget is a state-of-the-art helicopter that will spray mosquitoes from above, and upgrade the district's aging fleet. 

Todd Gamble, a Collier County taxpayer, said, "I think it's well worth it."

Keith Buchanan, another Collier County taxpayer, said, "I think that anything that can offset some kind of infestation like that it is well worth the $25 or whatever it would be."

Buchanan says the mosquitoes are such a nuisance that he'll support the Mosquito Control District all the way.

"Collier County has always been on the cutting edge for that kind of stuff, so I see no reason why they should stop now," he said. 

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Learning to fly, cheaper and quicker: Fulton County Airport (KUSE), Wauseon, Ohio

FULTON COUNTY, Ohio (13abc Action News) - If you ask your kids what their dream superpower would be, chances are, it's flight. Now a rural airport is starting its own flight school to make that dream a reality.

We’re with Captain Mike at the Fulton County Airport. He's taking us up in a two seater - something that many will never get the chance to experience. And that’s exactly what Naves Aviation wants to change: Make flying fun and less expensive again.

"It’s like having a little Corvette in the air," Captain Mike Ware said.

Circling over the Naves flight school is just the start for new pilots like us.

"I’m seventy years old," Ware said. So we get all these guys thinking it’s all over; it’s not! You can come and fly here, and have fun!"

Captain Mike says regulations, medical issues, and cost knock some aces out of the sky, not lost skill.

"There are so many pilots who love flying and had to stop," Ware said.

The next adventure and a little bit of an adrenaline rush. Seemed like a good option," Danny Dymarkowski said.

Danny is getting his hours on the Czech Sport. He loves the new school, which is a 90 second flight to his home.

"I was previously training in port Clinton and this is a whole lot closer to home," Dymarkowski said.

"This is being one with the wind," Ware said of what it's like to fly a small plane.

In just a few hours of lessons, you get to take control. It’s a little different than learning to drive in a parking lot.

"Alright, you go ahead and take the stick," Ware told us, just minutes into a flight. "And move the controls to the left and to the right."

Because light sport planes take less training and less fuel, it helps students on a budget. That’s new for the area.

"Get the license a little bit faster, and a little bit cheaper," Dymarkowski said.

"All we want to do now is make sure people can get out and fly for the beauty of flight. And that’s what I do. I do something I love and I get to share it with people," Ware said.

Just like a regular car in your driveway, these light sport planes have a keyed ignition, leather seats, and run on automobile gasoline. If you’re wanting to try it out yourself, the next ground school starts in less than a week here at Naves Aviation.

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Grand Canyon air tours: Conservationists hear noisy flights, tribe sees economic returns

LAS VEGAS — For a growing number of travelers in search of natural wonders, the road to the Grand Canyon starts here, along one of the loudest, brightest stretches of highway in America.

In any one of several small storefronts along the Strip, a salesman will sell the promise of a bucket-list trip, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon and, for a little more, a boat ride on the Colorado River.

Air tour operators have been flying to the Canyon from Las Vegas for years, but the market has expanded fastest for trips to and from the West Rim, once a little used stop on the Hualapai Reservation, just beyond the boundaries of the national park.

Now the West Rim is a destination, its glass-bottomed Skywalk an international attraction and its airstrip the base for a steady stream of flights every day.

The Hualapai preside over the businesses, opened on a part of the Canyon that lies on the tribe's reservation, out of reach of many regulations. Las Vegas tour companies, using a loophole in flight rules, have tapped into an international tourist market to fill a seemingly unlimited number of flights over the Canyon.

Tribal officials say they are entitled to develop their economy and so far, elected officials in Arizona and Nevada have not protested.

But conservationists say the air tours have shattered the solitude of the Canyon and warn that continued growth could transform the Canyon from a majestic national park into another crowded tourist playground.

They also worry about the risks of accidents, a fear grounded in an often deadly history of air travel over the Canyon.

A pilot called 'Kamikaze'

The pilot is not named. Reports from the National Transportation Safety Board refer to him as the “accident pilot,” but also note that he had a nickname: “Kamikaze.”

Kamikaze was known to plunge into side canyons on his way to the Colorado River and fly close to canyon walls, according to the reports. He once asked a passenger if he wanted a helicopter ride or the E ticket, a dated reference to the most exciting Disneyland rides. Another passenger, a heart patient, was so upset by his experience he filed a complaint and demanded a refund, records show.

Sundance Helicopters Inc. suspended the pilot for a week because of the complaints, according to NTSB records. Business was good, and Sundance was short on pilots, so the company decided to have Kamikaze “serve his suspension later when we were not as busy or had more pilots,” according to NTSB records.

On Sept. 20, 2003, a helicopter piloted by Kamikaze crashed in Descent Canyon, east of Grand Canyon West Airport, on the Hualapai Reservation. The pilot and all six passengers were killed.

Airplanes and helicopters have been crashing over Grand Canyon for about six decades. In 1956, two planes crashed over the abyss, killing 128 people. The crash led to the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Three decades later, 25 people died when a plane and helicopter crashed at the park, which led Sen. John McCain to champion a bill regulating Canyon flights. The Arizona Republican said national parks regulate everything from trails to pets, and they should regulate air traffic as well.

Though McCain stood by the $50 million air tour industry, he also said he "would like to make it clear that the Grand Canyon does not exist for anyone's financial benefit."  

His bill, the National Parks Overflights Act of 1987, called for “substantial restoration of natural quiet” and “protection of public health and safety. …” It also called for “provisions prohibiting the flight of aircraft below the rim of the Canyon,” and studies of airplane and helicopter noise.

But the National Park Service and the FAA did not work well together. The Park Service wanted to restore quiet to the park, while the FAA was primarily concerned with safety. The studies dragged on, the tours continued, and both conservationists and tour operators grew frustrated with the process. Robert Arnberger, the park's superintendent from 1994 to 2000, said working with the FAA was "like having a root canal.”

“You’ve got these agencies that are suspicious of each other. That’s going to drag it out,” said Dick Hingson, who spent years working on the issue with the Sierra Club.

Everything the Park Service tried to do got watered down, Hingson said. Years of negotiation led to a complex system of flight zones, flight caps, the phasing in of “quieter technology,” studies of the visitor experience. The Park Service said the Canyon was getting noisier, not quieter, and the tour industry complained that it needed to grow.

“There was a lot of stalling and maneuvering, and no one was on time,” Hingson said.

For years, most flights flew out of Tusayan, just a few miles from the South Rim of the Canyon. But the major players in the industry had operations out of Las Vegas as well.

The Vegas Connection

In the late 1990s, Las Vegas entrepreneur David Jin approached the Hualapai tribe with an idea: the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass walkway that looked down into the Canyon.

The tribe had an unemployment rate of 50 to 65 percent, according to an FAA analysis, and was looking for ways to boost its economy. Jin had a company that brought tourists from Asia to the U.S. His plan was to funnel those tourists from Las Vegas to the Hualapai Reservation.

Air tour companies were also approaching the tribe around this time. The tribe had made federally-funded airport renovations and resurfaced its airport runway in 1997, and the tour companies started flying to the reservation, located on the South Rim of the Canyon, out of Las Vegas.

The FAA was aware of the growing number of flights over Hualapai lands but was reluctant to limit them. The agency reasoned that the federal government had a trust obligation to Indian tribes. In March of 2003, the Supreme Court upheld what became known as the Hualapai exception. The western Grand Canyon was wide open for tour operators.

About six months later, the pilot known as Kamikaze crashed his helicopter. The crash led to major reforms within the industry, but critics said it also showed efforts to bring back safety, and quiet, to the Canyon were failing. Among the reforms that Sundance adopted were on-flight videos, closer pilot supervision and a zero-tolerance policy.

“We know that safety is the most important component of a great experience; it’s our number one value and everything we do goes through our safety filter,” Christina Ward, a spokeswoman for Sundance Helicopters, said in an e-mail.

The number of crashes has dropped sharply, though industry watchdogs say there is room for improvement. 

Gary C. Robb, a helicopter crash lawyer from Kansas City, Missouri, said helicopter tours are "certainly safer than they were 20 years ago.” Robb said he would like to see someone besides the pilot talk to the passengers on the tours, to leave the pilot with nothing to do but fly. He also said that the most popular flight paths tend to be the most scenic.

“In some cases, you have too many helicopters, in too crowded an air space,” he said.

“People in this day and age are looking for a thrill ride," Robb said, "...and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as it is done safely.”

After Kamikaze’s fatal crash, the NTSB noted that thousands of tours flew into Descent Canyon each year, and that the FAA was not familiar with the route at the time. The safety board recommended that the FAA require “periodic en route surveillance” of routes in western Grand Canyon.

It is not clear if the FAA has acted on these recommendations to the NTSB’s satisfaction, but Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the FAA, said in an e-mail that tour operators on the west side of the Canyon no longer use Descent Canyon, and that the agency makes hundreds of inspections of Canyon routes each year.

The FAA “does not have concerns with the air tour operators in this area,” he wrote.

Unlimited flights, unlimited impacts

In 2007, the Skywalk opened, bringing a new stream of revenue for the Hualapai, which was already making money from tour company landing fees.

While the tour operators increased their west end flights, the Park Service kept pushing for more quiet in the park, and after a quarter of a century of negotiation, it appeared to be making progress. 

In 2012, the Park Service was finishing up an Environmental Impact Statement more than a thousand pages long that had cost taxpayers about $6 million. Comments in the EIS show the Park Service faced pressure from the FAA and the tour industry, local politicians and some congressmen. By this time, the Park Service estimated, the air tour industry was generating more than $200 million in gross revenue.

As the agency got ready to cap flights out of the South Rim, it expressed concern over flights on the west side of the park.

The Park Service said the Hualapai exception was supposed to be temporary, that “unlimited flights mean essentially unlimited impacts,” and “the limits would be revisited at a later date.” 

Just before the Park Service was to release its EIS, which Hingson said would have led to new regulations, McCain inserted language into a transportation bill that ended the negotiations and the proposed flight caps. The EIS was never finalized or made public, though it is possible to see it through a public records request.

"This legislation thwarts a recent Obama administration proposal ... which would have killed hundreds of tourism jobs," McCain said in a statement at the time.

"That plan was deeply flawed and would have severely diminished a unique sightseeing experience. Fortunately, this provision ensures that visitors who might otherwise be unable to explore the Grand Canyon, particularly the elderly, disabled and our nation's wounded warriors, will be able to continue to enjoy the Canyon in one of the most unique ways possible."

Two years later, McCain hailed another agreement, to provide incentives for tour operators to use quieter technology in their aircraft, a move seen as a way to avoid cutting flights.

“This is a major step forward for promoting tourism jobs in northern Arizona and enhancing the soundscape at Grand Canyon National Park,” McCain said in a statement in 2014. 

"These added flights will support tourism opportunities while placing Grand Canyon National Park on a path to achieve the goal I established in the 2012 Highway Bill that all air tour aircraft be equipped with quiet technology within the next 15 years.”

McCain's moves frustrated some conservationists, who pointed out that Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters owner Elling Halvorson had donated generously to McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Halvorson and his family have donated more than $105,000 to McCain over the years, according to the Federal Election Commission.

In the meantime, the Skywalk had become extremely popular with Las Vegas tourists; Jin and the tribe were soon locked in a legal battle. Court records show the Canyon was becoming a lucrative business. 

A member of the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation board, which manages the tribe's tourism operations, testified that “the accounting system failed from the outset because of ‘too much business.’ " 

The accountants, he testified, explained the system was set up to handle $6 million to $7 million in revenues but the Skywalk was on the verge of receiving $30 million to $50 million in business. In the days after the Skywalk opened, tribal employees could not count the cash fast enough. They stuffed hundreds of bills into envelopes for haphazard safekeeping. Tribal employees lost thousands of dollars to theft.

Helicopter Alley: The Canyon roars

For years, Rich Rudow has walked remote and silent places in the Canyon, an explorer who has watched development encroach on the edges of the abyss.

He remembers a series of trips into the Grand Canyon and how each one grew louder than the last. 

On one rafting trip down the Colorado River, across from Hualapai lands, the Canyon sounded like a war zone. By the time the trip was over he had given the stretch of river a name: Helicopter Alley, also known as Good Morning Vietnam.

Kevin Fedarko, author of “The Emerald Mile,” said the Hualapai operate one of the busiest heliports in the world, with hundreds of helicopters coming and going in a day.

“It was a helicopter a day and then it was two. … and now it’s a helicopter a minute,” said river guide Tom Martin.

“I think the tribe can make a living,” Martin said. “But when the tribe’s activities start impacting the neighbors, and their neighbor happens to be a national park, people sit up and pay attention.”

On the North Rim, the Canyon is a national park, technically managed as wilderness. But helicopters frequently stray over the North Rim, which may be a violation of the Wilderness Act, Rudow said. Boats roar up river for about a mile and float back down.

In February, Fedarko and Rudow and some friends checked into a Vegas hotel and took a helicopter trip to see what it was like. That night, they wondered: Is this an appropriate use of a national park? How did it come to this? 

National parks were created shortly after American Indian tribes were placed on reservations. Once the tribes were removed, American attitudes toward wilderness began to change, Roderick Nash writes in “Wilderness and the American Mind.” America’s system of preservation took a while to sort itself out, and the system is not perfect, but national parks and other public lands remain popular to this day.

Federal law requires that the Park Service make parks accessible to the public and protect them for future generations. Those goals can be at odds with each other, and for years, the agency has maintained a balancing act, limiting development on park lands while watching visitation rise. Today the North and South Rims draw about 5 million visitors a year.

Just about everything in the park has a limit — overnight hikes, mule rides, river trips, hotel stays and campsites. The only thing the park does not limit are park entries and day hikes.

While the park grew, the tribes that were kicked out of their homes struggled to find an economic foothold. The Hualapai, Navajo and Havasupai still live in and around the Canyon, and “their story is intimately woven into the landscape itself,” Fedarko said. The tribes keep looking for ways “to elevate themselves economically,” he said, and have begun to look at tourism as an opportunity to do that — “why shouldn’t they?”

Conservationists say the question isn’t should the tribes make a living, but how? Developers aren’t waiting for the answer. They are moving in, without the Park Service as a gatekeeper. They are not concerning themselves with park resources, water supplies, future generations or silence in the Canyon. Their only obligation is to their shareholders, Rudow said, “and that’s the problem.”

The Navajo Nation is bitterly divided over the Grand Canyon Escalade, a proposal to build a gondola on the east side of the Canyon. Some Navajos are opposed to the project, which would cost the tribe $65 million up front and force cattle and sheep herders off their land. Several Navajo have also said the project, which would be built at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, is not appropriate because the Navajo and several other tribes consider the confluence sacred.

But some tribal members support the Escalade. The tribe is well aware that the Hualapai are making money off the Skywalk. That’s because developers for the proposal are basing their financial projections, in part, on Grand Canyon West traffic. So far, Navajo leaders seem skeptical that the project is the answer to their economic plight, but the bill is still technically alive in the Navajo Nation Council.

Rudow said Grand Canyon West has established a precedent, and if the Escalade fails, it’s only a matter of time before another developer comes along with another project, or the same developer comes back with another proposal. 

Dawnielle Tehama, former marketing director for the Hualapai, said it’s possible for tribes to be good stewards of the land and have tourism, but the Hualapai did not concern themselves with Canyon silence or even flight safety when she worked there. She said a lack of transparency, internal bickering, instability and poor accounting made it difficult to work with the tribe.

“Half the board meetings are closed. … There’s a lot going on behind closed doors.” Tehama said “there are a few tribal members that have the best interest of the Hualapai people at heart,” but tribal politics have made it difficult for them to get anything done.

“You’re dealing with a tribe that uses sovereign immunity like a sword, rather than a shield, as it should be,” she said.

“They’re not looking at the big picture. They’re not looking at environmental quality,” she said.

"Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk provide steady employment and opportunity for more than 1,000 employees, including many tribal members," the Hualapai tribe's chairman, Dr. Damon R. Clarke, said in a written statement. "Revenues flow into the local economies, providing a greater standard of living for our people, and helping to fund services for our elders, children and others in need of support.

"The Hualapai Tribe is proud to share the Grand Canyon with the world. We respect and care for this natural treasure each day, in the manner expected from Indigenous peoples.”

Las Vegas East?

Rudow had come to Las Vegas to see for himself what it’s like to fly over the abyss, step onto a boat, roar upstream, float back down and fly up to the Skywalk, a key attraction at Grand Canyon West.

He said he understood the Hualapai were trying to develop their economy.

“I don’t object to them having some development out there at all," he said. "It’s their land. But I do object to the helicopters.

“Right now you have a situation where the only loser is the park,” he said. "The park, and the American people.”

Last year, Arizona Sens. McCain and Jeff Flake introduced a bill authorizing more than $181 million to fund a project that would allow the Hualapai to pump more than 3 million gallons out of the Colorado River per day. The bill, recently reintroduced, would settle a long-standing claim with the tribe and help build pipelines and other infrastructure. 

The water in the settlement, measured at daily use, is about three times the amount Grand Canyon Village uses in peak times on the heavily trafficked South Rim, Rudow said.

“They could build hotels, casinos, and they could have 15 million visitors a year,” he said.

The Park Service also noted in its flight EIS that the Hualapai have also considered a gondola ride to the bottom of the Canyon. That’s probably not a serious consideration now, but the possibilities for unfettered development, backed by Las Vegas money and tourism, have alarmed conservationists. 

Clarke, the tribal chairman, said the Hualapai are most concerned about providing water for the people who live on the remote reservation and for the existing businesses, including a hotel and the Skywalk.

"While the tribe is presently able to serve our principal residential community, Peach Springs, with groundwater, that groundwater is a depletable resource, and well levels on the reservation are dropping," he told the Senate Indian Affairs committee last year during hearings on the water settlement.

The tribe is unable to provide housing for employees of the tourist businesses because the site is not served by reliable water sources, Clarke said. 

Further, he told the committee, the Hualapai possess few natural resources that would support agriculture or other industries, but their home on the Grand Canyon puts the tribe in a unique position to build a self-sustaining economy.

"The tribe should be encouraged and supported in its efforts to develop the resources and economic opportunities that it has," Clarke said during the hearing. "We have done everything possible to provide jobs and income to our people in order to lift them out of poverty."

Rudow was committed to seeing for himself what was happening on the West Rim. Settled into a hotel room in Las Vegas, he bought his ticket and, early the next morning, took the flight.

By mid-afternoon he was back at the hotel. Later, over drinks, he will sum it up like this: 

“I was horrified by the Skywalk experience.” He tried to walk away from the group to look at the Canyon and was herded back for a photo, a tourist on an assembly line.

Rudow said until someone challenges the status quo, nothing will change, and if nothing changes, Las Vegas, which sees about 43 million visitors annually, will continue to funnel tourists to the Canyon. Few of them are likely to experience the Canyon’s silence, or dark skies, to walk along the Rim, take a photo at sunset.

“Grand Canyon West is really not going to be Grand Canyon any more," he said. "It’s going to be Las Vegas East.”

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Jury awards $21.7 million to survivors of three killed in medical helicopter crash: Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, N114AE, owned and operated by Air Evac EMS Inc; fatal accident occurred June 6, 2013 in Manchester, Kentucky

Eddy Sizemore

Herman "Lee" Dobbs, Jr.

Jesse Jones

A Clay County jury has awarded a total of $21.7 million to survivors of three people killed in the crash of a medical helicopter in June 2013.

The crash occurred as the helicopter returned to its base in Manchester after taking a patient to a hospital in London. The Bell 206 L-1 crashed in an elementary school parking lot about 750 feet from the helipad and burst into flames.

Those killed were the pilot, Eddy Sizemore, 61, a retired sheriff’s deputy from Laurel County; flight paramedic Herman “Lee” Dobbs, 40, of London; and flight nurse Jesse Jones, 28, of Pineville.

Eight family members of the victims sued Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., the maker of the helicopter.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the crash likely happened because the pilot became disoriented after unexpectedly flying into fog. Sizemore likely made a maneuver that placed too much stress on the aircraft, which broke apart in the air, the NTSB said.

However, Kansas City, Mo., attorney Gary C. Robb, who represented the families, said evidence at the trial showed a defect in the main rotor blade of the helicopter caused destructive vibration.

The tail boom broke off, followed by the entire roof section of the helicopter, said Robb, who has won several large verdicts in helicopter-crash cases.

The mid-air breakup of the helicopter left the pilot and crew helpless, he said.

Robb said Bell executives acknowledged they had known about the serious defect in their main rotor manufacturing process for more than 20 years.

“The company admitted that the main rotor blades did not meet their own manufacturing specifications,” Robb said.

Internal Bell documents showed that the company confirmed problems with the main rotor blade caused earlier fatal crashes in Indiana and Ontario, Canada, Robb said.

The defect also was suspected in at least four other crashes, but the rotors burned in those incidents, destroying evidence needed to prove the claim, Robb said.

Bell spokeswoman Lindsey Hughes said that while the company could not comment on pending litigation, there are “many issues” from the trial that need to be addressed by the state Court of Appeals and the company looks forward to another day in court.

Hughes said the NTSB thoroughly investigated the crash and found no design or manufacturing issues with the helicopter or its components.

“This was a tragic accident and we are saddened by the loss of life,” Hughes said.

The jury in Clay County returned its verdict late Thursday after a three week trial. Robb’s wife, Anita, and Manchester attorney Scott Madden also represented the families.

Ruling for the family members required jurors to decide that Bell made, distributed or sold the main rotor blade of the helicopter “in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the user,” and that the defect was a substantial factor in the crash, according to the jury instructions.

The jury awarded differing amounts of money to family members based on varying factors. The largest single award was $7.5 million dollars to Jesse Jones’ minor son for the loss of his father’s love, affection and support, according to the verdict form.

Robb said the families of the three men killed in the crash want the FAA to open an investigation into Bell. He said he would file a formal complaint with the agency.

“We need increased safety in the helicopter industry,” Robb said.

Original article can be found here ➤

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Louisville, Kentucky
Bell Helicopter; Ft. Worth, Texas
Rolls-Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana
Air Evac EMS, Inc; O'Fallon, Missouri
Transportation Safety Board of Canada; Gatineau, Quebec

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: ERA13FA273
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 06, 2013 in Manchester, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/24/2014
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON 206L-1, registration: N114AE
Injuries: 3 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 air ambulance repositioning flight was en route to base following a patient transfer. Weather information forecast about 3 hours before the accident indicated a moist environment; however, visual conditions were anticipated around the time of the accident. An updated forecast was published about 10 minutes before the accident, and it indicated that fog or low stratus cloud development was possible and that visibility could decrease to near or below airport weather minimums in the early morning hours. Witness statements and the reported weather conditions indicated that patchy fog had developed near the helipad at the time of the accident and that visibility at the accident site was 1/4 mile; however, the specific visibility conditions encountered by the helicopter during its approach could not be determined. A witness reported seeing the helicopter “flying lower than normal” and then spinning before impact. Another witness reported seeing the helicopter in a nose-down attitude and then impact the ground.

The wreckage was located in a school parking lot, which was about 750 feet from the landing pad and at an elevation of about 900 feet mean sea level (msl). The wreckage distribution was consistent with an in-flight separation of the main rotor and tailboom. An examination of the helicopter airframe, engine, and related systems revealed no preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Both the main rotor assembly and tailboom separated in overload.

Review of GPS data showed the accident helicopter descending in three right circuits near the landing pad just before the accident. The final recorded data were in the immediate vicinity of the accident location and indicated an altitude of 1,437 feet msl. The maneuvering flightpath of the helicopter before the accident was consistent with an attempt to avoid fog followed by a loss of control. Although the pilot was instrument rated, he had not logged recent instrument time. Further, although the pilot had recent training in night vision goggle usage and had night vision goggles available during the flight, it could not be determined if he was using them at the time of the accident. Given the reports of fog in the area and the accident circumstances, it is likely that the pilot entered instrument meteorological conditions during the approach to the helipad, which resulted in spatial disorientation and loss of control.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s loss of helicopter control due to spatial disorientation when he inadvertently encountered night, instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in the in-flight separation of the main rotor and tailboom.


On June 6, 2013, about 2315 eastern daylight time, a Bell 206 L-1, N114AE, was destroyed when it impacted the ground in an elementary school parking lot while on approach to the company's helicopter landing zone near Manchester, Kentucky. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed; however, reports of patchy fog were reported by numerous eyewitnesses and a company visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The airline transport pilot and two medical personnel were fatally injured. The helicopter was owned and operated by Air Evac EMS Inc. and was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a repositioning flight to the company-owned helipad. The flight originated from the St. Joseph-London Heliport (5KY9), London, Kentucky about 2259.

Numerous eye and auditory witness statements were recorded by the Kentucky State Police and reported to the NTSB for reference. Several eyewitnesses reported to the State Police that the helicopter was observed "flying lower than normal" and "spinning" prior to impact. Some of the eyewitnesses reported that there was no fog in the area and the sky was clear at the time of the accident. Other eyewitnesses reported that while driving down the road that ran in front of, and parallel to, the elementary school, and located between the accident site and the intended landing location, they observed the helicopter in a nose down attitude, impact the ground, and subsequently engulfed in a fireball; however, they also stated the visibility at the time was around 1/4 mile. The eye and auditory witnesses that reported the clear skies were at their residence about 1/2 mile from the accident site on the opposite side of the creek that ran along the back side of the school. One of the eyewitnesses observed the helicopter in a tail low attitude, then in a more level attitude prior to the engine noise ceasing, which took place prior to the accident.


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and company records, the pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land and a held a type rating in CE-500 airplanes, a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, helicopter, and instrument helicopter, and a control tower operator certificate with limitations for Simmons Army Airfield, NC GCA only. He also had a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine, multiengine, and instrument airplane. He held a second-class medical certificate, which was issued on January 4, 2013, and had one restriction of "must have available glasses for near vision." 

According to company records, the pilot was hired on February 16, 2013. At that time the pilot reported that he had 4,877 total hours of flight experience and 1,902 flight hours in helicopters, of which, 1,600 total flight hours were in Bell 206/OH 58 Helicopters. Since the start of his employment, the company had recorded 54.4 total flight hours for the pilot, not including the flights on the day of the accident. The pilot had completed ground training on February 16, 2013, and flight training on March 3, 2013, in the handling and use of the ITT Model F4949 night vision goggles. The operator reported that the pilot had no previous recorded night vision goggle flight time, and that since employment, he had logged 13.2 total hours of night vision goggle experience. 

According to records provided by the operator, in the 3 days preceding that accident, the pilot had worked 3 shifts with a total of 36.6 hours of duty and 2.5 hours of total flight time. According to the company records, during that period of time the pilot had 53.2 total hours of "Hours Off" time. 


According to FAA and company records, the helicopter was issued an airworthiness certificate on September 26, 1980 and was registered to Air Evac EMS, Inc on October 31, 2002. It was equipped with an Allison 250-C30P engine, with 650 shaft horsepower. The helicopter was modified with enhanced power and increased payload, which gave it a further designation of an "L-1 Plus." The helicopter was on an Approved Airworthiness Inspection Program (AAIP) and its most recent event 1 inspection was completed on June 6, 2013. The helicopter was equipped with a SkyTrac system, which recorded data in 5 second intervals and some of the data was transmitted to the operator's enhanced operation control center (OCC) once every minute. 


Communication recordings obtained from the operator, indicated that at 2312:24, the pilot announced that "one oh nine roger show us arriving at the base" followed by the Operators Central Communication (CENCOM) responding at 2312:30, with "air evac one oh nine got you on final for base." At 2315:02, a recording of a male voice was captured and stated "no." No other recordings were captured for the accident flight.


The 2339 recorded weather observation at London-Corbin Airport-Magee Field (LOZ), London, Kentucky, included calm wind, 2 1/2 miles visibility due to mist, scattered clouds at 8,000 feet above ground level (agl), temperature 19 degrees C, dew point 19 degrees C, and a barometric altimeter of 29.80 inches of mercury

The 2253 record weather at LOZ included calm wind, 6 miles visibility due to mist, scattered clouds at 5,500 feet agl, temperature 20 degrees C, dew point 19 degrees C and a barometric altimeter of 29.81 inches of mercury.

The NWS Surface Analysis Chart for 2300 EDT depicted a low-pressure center very near the accident location, with a cold front extending southwest, and a warm front extending east from the low-pressure center. A separate cold front was advancing from the north through the northern portion of Kentucky. Surface temperatures in eastern Kentucky and eastern Tennessee were generally in the high 60's° F. Dew point temperatures were in the mid- to high 60's°F. Station models depicted the wind as calm or light, with one station near the accident site reporting mist.

A NWS Weather Depiction Chart for 0000 EDT on June 7, 2013, depicted fronts in a similar fashion to the Surface Analysis Chart. In addition, the Weather Depiction Chart, which provides contours for areas of IFR and MVFR conditions, indicated the accident location was in an area of VFR conditions with ceilings greater than 3,000 feet agl and a visibility greater than 5 miles.

An Area Forecast Discussion (AFD) was issued at 2053 EDT by the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Jackson, Kentucky (KJKL). The aviation portion of the AFD, which was originally issued at 2005 EDT in a previous AFD, was:

1053 PM EDT THU JUN 6 2013


One Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) advisory was active at low altitudes for the accident location at the accident time. This AIRMET for IFR conditions was issued at 2245 EDT:

WAUS43 KKCI 070245
_CHIS WA 070245


The intended helipad was privately owned, by the operator, and at the time of the accident did not have an operating control tower. The helipad was 40 feet by 40 feet and was located approximately 750 feet northwest of the accident site. The helipad was 895 feet above mean sea level.


The helicopter impacted an elementary school parking lot on its right side and in a partially inverted attitude. According to surveillance video, the helicopter exploded on impact and a fireball ensued. The accident flight path was oriented on a 268 degree heading. The debris path began approximately 300 feet prior to the main wreckage and terminated approximately 90 feet past. The main rotor blades and upper deck of the helicopter came to rest approximately 300 feet prior and to the east of the impact site. The tailboom aft of the aft bulkhead and tailrotor with the gear box still attached came to rest about 300 feet to the northeast of the impact location. Both items came to rest in a tree line that ran perpendicular to the flight path and the main rotor and upper deck assembly came to rest immediately below a 3 phase power line. According to local authorities, the power line was not severed; however, a cross member located on a pole near the accident site had given way resulting in a power outage in the area. A tree, approximately 80 feet in height, located near the main rotor blade, exhibited limb damage towards the top, which was consistent with damage produced by rotor blades although due to the height it could not be confirmed. A fluid splatter, similar in appearance as an oil splatter, was located from about 100 feet prior to the wreckage up to the wreckage and was about 30 feet in width. The left side patient/crew door was located along the debris path and to the north of the path. The inside of the door exhibited hydraulic oil splatter through the entire interior.

Cockpit/Cabin Section

The cockpit/cabin section was thermally damaged and according to local authorities came to rest inverted. The engine was co-located with the cabin section. The left side instrument panel remained intact and exhibited thermal damage. The pilot's instrument panel and overhead panel were thermally damaged and did not yield any pertinent information. Examination of the pilot seat revealed extensive thermal damage; however, the seat belt mechanism was located, and was latched with the shoulder harness also secured to the latching mechanism. The anti-torque pedals were impact separated and one pedal exhibited overstress factures. Due to the extensive thermal and impact damage neither the cyclic nor collective remained attached. However, control continuity was confirmed from the aft bulkhead to the tail rotor through the tailboom fracture points. Examination of the remaining seatbelts indicated that two sets of shoulder harness latches associated with the flight nurse and paramedic seats were unsecured, The patient transport stretcher was located in the vicinity of the cockpit; however, exhibited extensive thermal damage. The seat belt latches associated with the stretcher appeared to be latched. 

The landing skid assembly was located about 35 feet forward and to the left of the main wreckage as viewed from the debris path and was separated from the fuselage of the helicopter. The rear attach area exhibited some thermal damage but no other thermal damage was noted on the landing skid assembly. The right side of the skid gear, as viewed from the tail of the helicopter, had crush damage on the aft portion of the gear and was impact separated at the aft cross tube. The forward portion of the skid exhibited crush damage on the side wall of the skid tube, as well as numerous scraping and gouge marks along the tube. The right hand step was also impact separated at the forward attach point. The left hand tube and step exhibited slight inward bowing about midspan of the tube; it remained attached to the gear assembly. 


The tailboom fractured just aft of the intercostal support and forward of the horizontal stabilizer. The forward portion of the tailboom skin exhibited fracture marks consistent with compressive forces. The right side of the fuselage exhibited impact and crush damage consistent with a right side low at impact. The main and tail rotor flight controls exhibited impact and thermal damage. The fractures and position of the wreckage were consistent with an inflight breakup prior to ground impact.


The engine was co-located with the main wreckage and was found inverted. The engine remained attached through one engine mount and several steel braided hoses, the other engine mounts exhibited impact and thermal damage and were impact fractured. The compressor impeller blades rotated by hand with some resistance noted; however, several blades exhibited extensive damage to the blade tips. The upper and lower chip detectors were removed, examined, and did not display any debris. The engine was removed from the helicopter and shipped to the engine manufacturer for further examination.

Main Rotor Assembly and Transmission

The main rotor assembly and transmission (upperdeck) was located to the south side of the debris path about 300 feet prior to the main wreckage. The upperdeck came to rest at the edge of a ditch immediately below 3-phase power lines. The power lines exhibited marks similar to impact marks created by a falling object from above. The blades exhibited a braided pattern along the bottom side similar to the braided wire pattern of the 3-phase wires. Approximately 3 feet of the tip of one blade was impact separated. The fracture marks exhibited overstress signatures consistent with an overstress fracture. The mast exhibited a slight S-bend along the length. The transmission was rotated utilizing the connecting rod and continuity was confirmed through the main rotor system. The K-Flex main drive shaft was located in the parking lot approximately 75 feet from the main wreckage and exhibited rotation scoring on the engine end outer diameter consistent with contact during rotation with the forward engine firewall. No evidence was located along the leading edge of the blades that would be consistent with striking a stationary object; however, 65 inches from the center of the mast and 11.5 inches in length was faint paint transfer marks consistent with the paint color of the helicopter. Examination of the right side engine cowling exhibited a main rotor blade impact mark. Both chip detectors were removed, examined, and noted as unremarkable. 

Tail Section

The tail rotor assembly remained attached to the tailboom. The tail rotor blades exhibited minimal leading edge damage and the vertical tail assembly had been impact separated from the tail boom; however, the vertical tail assembly was located in a tree in the immediate vicinity of the tail boom. Continuity was confirmed from the fracture point to the rotor blades as well as to the horizontal stabilizer. The tail rotor drive assembly shroud was removed and the assembly was examined. The drive assembly hangers aft of the fracture point exhibited aft movement and rotational scoring on the hanger assembly. The assembly hangers forward of the fracture point exhibited forward movement and rotational scoring on the hanger assembly. The tail rotor driveshaft remained connected to the end of the freewheeling unit and the splined shaft coupling was disconnected from the oil cooler. The driveshaft exhibited a fracture adjacent to the tailboom fracture. The chip detector was removed and examined and was unremarkable.

The report for the postaccident airframe examination is included in the public docket for this accident investigation.


The FAA issued Air Evac EMS, Inc., an operating certificate in February of 1986 to conduct on demand emergency medical service transports. At the time of the accident, Air Evac conducted air ambulance operations in 15 states with 114 bases. The accident crew was based at Manchester, Kentucky. The corporate headquarters, including training, the Director of Operations, Chief Pilot, and Director of Safety were located in O'Fallon, Missouri. The FAA Flight Standards District Office in St. Louis, Missouri managed the operating certificate.

The company operated 2 different make and models of helicopters, and employed about 450 pilots. Prior to employment, each pilot was required to have a minimum of 2,000 hours total time; 500 hours turbine time, 100 hours of night flying, and an instrument rating.


Engine Examination

The engine was disassembled and examined at the Rolls-Royce facility at Indianapolis, Indiana on July 9, 2013. During the engine examination nothing was discovered that would prevent normal engine operation. Rotation scoring signatures were noted throughout the different blade sections and were consistent with engine operation at impact.

The engine examination report is included in the public docket for this accident investigation.

Examination of Bird Remains

Several samples of potential bird matter were taken from an area around the pitch change links, located on the main rotor assembly and sent to the Smithsonian Institution's Feather Identification Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The samples were microscopically examined by personnel at the laboratory for evidence of feather remains, no remains were found. DNA testing was conducted and two of samples contained DNA. One sample contained a 94 percent match to the order of birds that includes perching birds. The other sample contained a 99.6 percent match to an Empidonax minimus also known as a Least Flycatcher. For the Laboratory to consider the sample test reliable a 98 percent or better is required. 


Pre Flight Risk Assessment

Air Evac pilots were required to use a Risk Assessment Worksheet prior to all air medical and air
medical reposition flights. There were two versions of the worksheet, the short form, and the long form.

The short form had 17 areas of review. Each area was assigned a numerical point, or points, by the pilot. The area's point(s) were added into a final tally of points, which was considered the flight's risk assessment. The short form areas included pilot experience with the company, pilot experience in the make and model of the helicopter, and weather and terrain for the flight. The 10 areas under weather and terrain were further broken down into a point assignment for day operations and a higher point assignment for night operations. If the total point value of the short form was less than 35 points, pilots were advised that the flight is at their "discretion." If the total of the short form was 35 points or greater, the pilot was required to complete the long form and consult with the operational control center.

The long form had 31 areas to be reviewed and scored the same way as the short form. A score of 35 points or less was low risk with the conduct of the flight being pilot's choice. A score of 35 points to 60 points was low to moderate risk, advising the pilot to exercise caution. A score of 61 points to 99 points was moderate to high risk, advising the pilot to exercise extreme caution. A score of 100 points and above was high risk, and the flight was not permitted. Use of the long form and consultation with the operational control center was required for all risk levels above 34 points.

The risk score for the accident flight was 30 points, as reported by the pilot prior to the flight, which did not require the use of the long form, and did not require a consultation with the operational control center.

Operations Specifications

According to the operator's weather minimums, criteria for flying at night in mountainous conditions varied depending on if the helicopter was equipped with Night Vision Imaging System (NVIA) or Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS). Furthermore, weather minimum criteria were based on if the flight was a "local" or "cross country" flight. The General Operations Manual Section 5.20, defined the "local flying area" during daylight hours as 25 nautical miles (NM) from the base and the "night local area" was 5 NM from the base, all other flights were considered "cross country." Since the accident helicopter was equipped with the proper equipment, as specified in the General Operations Manual, and the flight was considered "cross country," the weather minimums for the accident flight were 1000 foot ceilings and the visibility minimum was 5 statute miles. 

Air Evac Pilot Training

At the time of the accident, Air Evac conducted ground and simulator-based training with their pilots. The pilots received ground training on an annual basis, which included situational awareness, human factors, patient interaction and awareness, critical incident task saturation, workload management, risk assessment, loss of tail rotor effectiveness, weather, and weather preparedness for the day to enhance launch decision making. Additional training included all required aspects of Parts 91 and 135 as well as night operations, the FAA approved night vision goggle (NVG) curriculum, and recovery from inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) conditions. The pilots received simulator training every six months. The simulator training included unusual attitudes and recovery from IIMC, a PAR/ASR approach, a GPS approach, simulated white out and brown out conditions, and several emergency procedures. The emergency procedures included engine failures, hydraulic failures, and component failures.

The pilots also received NVG flight and ground training. Flight training was conducted at night flying various maneuvers, experienced different emergency procedures, system failures, and flight into various lighting conditions. In addition, IMC conditions were simulated.

Operational Control Center

Air Evac operated one main Operational Control Center (OCC) located in O'Fallon, Missouri. The OCC was manned by multiple dispatchers performing the functions of call taking and
flight following. These dispatchers were not FAA certificated aircraft dispatchers; however, they were trained in emergency response. Each dispatcher worked a 12-hour shift and EMS operations at Air Evac were conducted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to flight followers, the OCC was staffed 24/7 with "Operational Controllers." Air Evac Operations Specifications - A008 OPERATIONAL CONTROL lists Tier 1 Operational Control: "The
Operational Control Center (OCC), through the authority of the Director of Operations, and through the Chief Pilot, exercises Operational Control of company aircraft. The OCC has the authority to decline a flight request, or terminate a flight, in the interest of safety."

The Operational Controllers did not perform the duties of Flight Followers, rather their purpose was to serve as a resource, available by radio, to assist the pilot with weather, publications, and
emergency information, if requested.

Each dispatch and operation controller station was equipped with a computer, several monitors, a
telephone, and a radio. Each computer was equipped with software to provide updated weather
information, satellite tracking of all active operations, flight details, and flight timers. Each conversation was recorded.

All calls for dispatch were made to the OCC. The dispatcher would determine which aircraft was best positioned for the mission, track base status, and would notify the crew by either a page, radio call, or telephone call. Base status was determined at crew change and as the shift progressed, with changes in weather/crews.


SkyTrac provided satellite-tracking capabilities and could provide GPS coordinates, ground speed, a pictorial depiction of aircraft location, and text communications between the aircraft and dispatch. Immediately after the aircraft's power was applied the system tracking became active. SkyTrac recorded the aircraft latitude and longitude position every 5 seconds and every 60 seconds it would send the OCC a position update. Once the flight had landed uneventfully, the dispatcher closed out the flight record. Review of global positioning system data depicted the accident helicopter descending in three right circuits in the vicinity of the landing pad, just prior to the accident. The final recorded data was at 2314:44 and indicated an altitude of 1437 feet above mean sea level on a heading of 315 degrees and an groundspeed of 6 knots in the immediate vicinity of the accident location.

Night Vision Goggles

According to the operations specifications, the helicopter was equipped with two ITT model F4949 NVGs. One goggle was designated for the pilot and the other was for either the flight medic or flight nurse to be worn, when the pilot was landing utilizing NVG's. These goggles are equipped with a rear-mounted, low-profile battery pack, which utilizes four AA alkaline batteries. The power was provided by a cable extending from the battery pack, over the helmet, and into a connector in the mount. The NVG consisted of two components, the mount assembly and the binocular assembly. The mount assembly was designed to be secured to the helmet and hold the binocular assembly in position. The binocular assembly consisted of a pair of monocular assemblies which incorporate the optical elements as well as numerous adjustment controls. The goggles included flip-up/flip-down capability.

United States Army Field Manual (FM) 3-04.203, Fundamental of Flight, May 2007

The United States Army has incorporated NVGs into their flying programs, several decades prior to the accident. While not required reading for civilian pilots, FM 3-04.203 was developed to educate pilots on the principles surrounding aviation and to better prepare the pilot to react to unexpected conditions. In Chapter 4, "Rotary-Wing Night Flight," several passages describe the hazards and risks of night flight with night vision systems. Section 4-89 "Weather" states in part "When using NVGs, aviators may fail to detect entry into or presence of IMC. NVGs enable crewmembers to see through obscurations, such as fog, rain, haze, dust and smoke, depending on density. As density increases, aircrews can detect a gradual reduction in visual acuity as less light is available. Certain visual cues are evident when restriction to visibility occurs. The apparent increase in size and density of halos during bad weather is an illusion. The halos are due to the electron spread for bright light sources, size remains the same. Any reduction in visibility decreases light intensity and reduces density of the halo. While contrast decreases, video noise may increase. There may be a loss of celestial lights, while the moon and stars may fade or disappear due to overcast conditions. When these conditions are present severity of the condition is evaluated and appropriate action taken. Actions include reducing airspeed, increasing altitude, reversing course, aborting the mission, or landing. If visual flight cannot be maintained the crew must execute appropriate IMC recovery procedures."

Spatial Disorientation

According to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3), "Night flying is very different from day flying and demands more attention of the pilot. The most noticeable difference is the limited availability of outside visual references. Therefore, flight instruments should be used to a greater degree.… Generally, at night it is difficult to see clouds and restrictions to visibility, particularly on dark nights or under overcast. The pilot flying under VFR must exercise caution to avoid flying into clouds or a layer of fog." The handbook described some hazards associated with flying in airplanes under VFR when visual references, such as the ground or horizon, are obscured. "The vestibular sense (motion sensing by the inner ear) in particular tends to confuse the pilot. Because of inertia, the sensory areas of the inner ear cannot detect slight changes in the attitude of the airplane, nor can they accurately sense attitude changes that occur at a uniform rate over a period of time. On the other hand, false sensations are often generated; leading the pilot to believe the attitude of the airplane has changed when in fact, it has not. These false sensations result in the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation." 

According to the FAA Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-15), a rapid acceleration "...stimulates the otolith organs in the same way as tilting the head backwards. This action creates the somatogravic illusion of being in a nose-up attitude, especially in situations without good visual references. The disoriented pilot may push the aircraft into a nose-low
or dive attitude."

The FAA publication Medical Facts for Pilots (AM-400-03/1), described several vestibular illusions associated with the operation of aircraft in low visibility conditions. Somatogyral illusions, those involving the semicircular canals of the vestibular system, were generally placed into one of four categories, one of which was the "graveyard spiral." According to the text, the graveyard spiral, "…is associated with a return to level flight following an intentional or unintentional prolonged bank turn. For example, a pilot who enters a banking turn to the left will initially have a sensation of a turn in the same direction. If the left turn continues (~20 seconds or more), the pilot will experience the sensation that the airplane is no longer turning to the left. At this point, if the pilot attempts to level the wings this action will produce a sensation that the airplane is turning and banking in the opposite direction (to the right). If the pilot believes the illusion of a right turn (which can be very compelling), he/she will reenter the original left turn in an attempt to counteract the sensation of a right turn. Unfortunately, while this is happening, the airplane is still turning to the left and losing latitude.

Pulling the control yoke/stick and applying power while turning would not be a good idea–because it would only make the left turn tighter. If the pilot fails to recognize the illusion and does not level the wings, the airplane will continue turning left and losing altitude until it impacts the ground."

NTSB Identification: ERA13FA273
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 06, 2013 in Manchester, KY
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON 206L-1, registration: N114AE
Injuries: 3 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 June 6, 2013, about 2315 eastern daylight time, a Bell 206 L-1, N114AE, was destroyed when it impacted an elementary school parking lot while on approach for landing near Manchester, Kentucky. The airline transport pilot and two medical personnel were fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Air-Evac EMS, Inc., as Evac 109, and operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a repositioning flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the St. Joseph-London Heliport (5KY9), London, Kentucky about 2259.

The helicopter was on approach to the operator’s private helipad when the accident occurred. According to flight tracking software provided by the operator, the helicopter approached the base from the west, turned southeast, flew overhead the intended landing site about 1 mile, turned north, then west, then back southeast prior to the end of the recorded data. Recordings provided by the operator's Operational Control Center (OCC), located in O'Fallon, Missouri, revealed that the pilot reported arriving at the base at 2312:24. That transmission was acknowledged by the OCC at 2312:30. At 2315:02, an unidentified male voice was recorded. No other transmissions from the accident flight were captured.

Several eyewitnesses reported that the weather was clear, and stated that the helicopter was "spinning" prior to impact. One of those witnesses reported seeing the helicopter in an approximate 40-degree nose-up attitude, and shortly after no engine sound was heard. Other witnesses, who reported "dense fog" in the area at the time of the accident, stated that they only saw the helicopter just before the impact and subsequent explosion.

The helicopter came to rest inverted on a 268 degree heading, about 750 feet from the intended landing area. According to security camera recordings the helicopter erupted into a fireball immediately on impact.

The helicopter and engine were retained for further examination.