Thursday, April 25, 2019

Loss of Control in Flight: Bell 47G-3B-1, N96671; accident occurred April 17, 2019 in Donna, Hidalgo County, Texas

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Donna, TX
Accident Number: GAA19CA216
Date & Time: 04/17/2019, 1108 CDT
Registration: N96671
Aircraft: Bell 47G
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

The helicopter pilot reported that, during an aerial application flight with an easterly heading, about 3 feet above ground level, the "wind suddenly shifted, a gust of wind [came] from the west" and the helicopter "settled." The pilot increased power and raised the collective but the helicopter impacted the terrain.

The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and tail boom.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.

The pilot further reported that the helicopter was equipped with a muffler, which he believed adversely affected engine's performance. Correspondence with the certificate holder of the helicopter, "determined to be no reduction of horsepower with the muffler installed if done as per the instructions per the STC."

The automated weather observation station located 5 NM east of the accident, reported that, about 8 minutes before the accident, the wind was from 180° at 16 knots, gusting to 25 knots. The same automated station reported that, about 32 minutes after the accident, the wind was from 180° at 16 knots, gusting to 26 knots.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: Unknown
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: 04/02/2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 06/14/2017
Flight Time:   (Estimated) 12500 hours (Total, all aircraft), 6000 hours (Total, this make and model), 12100 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N96671
Model/Series: 47G 3B1
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1967
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted; Normal
Serial Number: 3539
Landing Gear Type: Skid
Seats: 3
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2950 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines:  1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: VO-435-A1F
Registered Owner: Turnquist Lee W
Rated Power: 265 hp
Operator: Hendrickson Flying Service
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  Agricultural Aircraft (137); Rotorcraft External Load (133)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KTXW, 70 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 5 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1635 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 111°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  7 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 1900 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts:  16 knots / 25 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 180°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.81 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 22°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Weslaco, TX (TXW)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Weslaco, TX (TXW)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0740 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 26.204444, -98.051667 (est)

DONNA, Texas – Department of Public Safety confirms they are investigating an incident involving a private helicopter north of Donna.

It happened near Mile 11 and Old La Blanca Road.

Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office says the pilot suffered minor injuries and is being treated by emergency medical services.

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