Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bell 47G-5, N7800S: Accident occurred February 28, 2018 in Pixley, Tulare County, California

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

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Pixley, CA
Accident Number: WPR18CA096
Date & Time: 02/28/2018, 1530 PST
Registration: N7800S
Aircraft: BELL 47G
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural


The pilot reported that after landing and during the loading for the next chemical agricultural application flight with the engine running, he exited the helicopter to speak to the owner of the property he was spraying. He could not remember if he had instructed the ground crewman to fuel the helicopter or not. Additionally, the pilot stated that prior to takeoff he failed to check the fuel level and was unaware that the ground crewman had not refueled the helicopter. After takeoff and completing only one spray pass, the engine lost power. The pilot opined that he "just ran out of fuel." Unable to make it back to the loading area, he landed in a grove of trees, which resulted in substantial damage to the helicopter. The pilot also mentioned that due to the approaching rain, he was in a hurry to get the field sprayed before it arrived.

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical anomalies with the helicopter or engine that would have precluded normal operation. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, which resulted from the pilot's failure to ensure that adequate fuel was on board for the flight. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's self-induced pressure to complete the flight due to impending rain. 


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Fuel planning - Pilot (Cause)
Forgotten action/omission - Pilot (Cause)
Motivation/respond to pressure - Pilot (Factor)

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight
Aircraft servicing event

Maneuvering-low-alt flying
Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)

Emergency descent
Off-field or emergency landing
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Maneuvering-low-alt flying

Loss of engine power (total)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 53, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/07/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 07/06/2016
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 17000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 17000 hours (Total, this make and model), 10 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: BELL
Registration: N7800S
Model/Series: 47G 5
Aircraft Category:Helicopter 
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 7854
Landing Gear Type:Skid 
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/07/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 700 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 10132 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: VO-435
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 260 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  Agricultural Aircraft (137) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PTV, 443 ft msl
Observation Time: 1556 PST
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 50°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 15°C / 8°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots, 110°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Pixley, CA
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Pixley, CA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1500 PST
Type of Airspace: Class E

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  35.936389, -119.192500

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