Friday, June 28, 2019

AgustaWestland AW109S Grand, N11NM: Fatal accident occurred June 28, 2019 at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (KBRD), Crow Wing County, Minnesota

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Minneapolis, Minnesota
Federal Aviation Administration Rotorcraft Directorate; Fort Worth, Texas
North Memorial Health; Crystal, Minnesota
Transportation Safety Board of Canada; Ottawa, Ontario
Italian Civil Aviation Authority; San Marino, FN

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Brainerd, MN
Accident Number: CEN19FA185
Date & Time: 06/28/2019, 0041 CDT
Registration: N11NM
Aircraft: AGUSTA A109
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled - Air Medical (Discretionary) 

On June 28, 2019, about 0041 central daylight time, an Agusta Spa A109S helicopter, N11NM, impacted terrain while landing at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (BRD), Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota. The pilot and flight nurse were fatally injured, the flight paramedic was seriously injured, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to and operated by North Memorial Healthcare under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at BRD for the instrument flight rules (IFR) flight, which departed from North Memorial Heliport (MY77), Robbinsdale, Minnesota, about 2348.

The helicopter was returning to BRD after delivering a patient to MY77. Following descent from a cruise altitude of 6,000 ft mean sea level, the pilot flew the ILS Runway 23 approach at BRD. According to the flight paramedic, who was seated in the left forward seat, the runway surface and lights were visible below a thin fog layer during the approach to landing. He noticed a few clouds to the side of the helicopter and recalled the pilot remarking that the weather conditions were foggy, and they would need to go-around. He subsequently noticed the helicopter spin to the right and impact the ground.

The helicopter impacted a grassy area to the left of Runway 23 and came to rest on a heading of 074 degrees. The main fuselage and tail boom exhibited crushing consistent with a high velocity vertical descent. The helicopter was upright and nearly intact, with no movement from the initial impact point. There was no evidence of a postcrash fire.

A portion of the ground was soaked of fuel and the smell of fuel was present at the accident site. The transmission deck exhibited a downward deformation leading to fracturing of drive train connections between the engines to the main transmission and from the combining gearbox's tail rotor output drive to the tail rotor drive train.

All four main rotor blades were attached to the main rotor head. One main rotor blade exhibited separation of its tip and portions of its afterbody. The remaining three main rotor blades exhibited cracks on their skins but were otherwise whole. An arc-shaped ground scar, consistent with a main rotor blade strike, was found to the left of the fuselage. One of the two tail rotor blades remained attached to the tail rotor hub. The inboard section of the second tail rotor blade remained attached to the hub, and the remaining outboard section was found about 211 feet to the southwest of the helicopter. A 7-inch deep ground scar was located underneath the tail rotor and exhibited evidence of multiple tail rotor blade strikes.

The first stage compressor blades for both engines did not exhibit evidence of foreign object debris ingestion. Both first stage compressors were able to be rotated freely by hand. All power turbine blades for both engines were present. Both power turbines were able to be rotated freely by hand, resulting in rotation each of the engines output diaphragm coupling.

An Appareo Vision 1000 cockpit image recording device, engine data collection units, data acquisition unit, Outerlink satellite communications unit, and HeliTAWS unit were recovered from the wreckage and transported to the NTSB in Washington, DC for examination and download. The wreckage was recovered for postaccident examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: AGUSTA
Registration: N11NM
Model/Series: A109 S
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: North Memorial Healthcare
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: S6GA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KBRD, 1221 ft msl
Observation Time: 0018 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 16°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 50°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 200 ft agl
Visibility:  0.25 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.08 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Robbinsdale, MN (MY77)
Destination: Brainerd, MN (BRD)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 46.403333, -94.128333

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Timothy Alan McDonald

Timothy A. McDonald, age 44, of Bloomington, Minnesota passed away on June 28th, 2019. Tim led a life of service to Jesus, his family, his country, and his communities. Growing up being a Jefferson Jaguars hockey player was a highlight of his life. He will always be proud of his 1992 and 1993 state tournament teams. His time at Gustavus Adolphus College helped shape who he was. Tim’s love for others led him into emergency medicine and later to serve as a Blackhawk pilot in the US Army. Tim served two combat tours in Iraq and left the service to fulfill his dream as a medevac pilot. Tim was also an adventurer and entrepreneur. He pursued his MBA at Oklahoma State University. Tim is incredibly proud of his wife and four children. In all that God gave Tim in this life, his greatest joy was his family. 

Visitation will be held on Monday, July 8th from 4-8PM at Washburn-McReavy Glen Haven chapel, 5125 West Broadway, Crystal. 

Funeral service will be held on Tuesday, July 9th at 11AM with visitation starting at 10AM at Celebration Church, 16655 Kenyon Ave, Lakeville. Interment Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Timothy Alan McDonald

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hundreds gathered at a Lakeville’s Celebration Church Tuesday morning to remember and honor Tim McDonald, a medical pilot who died the early morning of June 28, when his chopper crashed in Brainerd.

Over 40 first responder departments from across the state were represented at the funeral and hundreds of North Memorial employees, where McDonald worked as a pilot.

McDonald was a 44-year-old husband and father of four, served in the U.S. Army and did two tours in Iraq, and left the service to fulfill his dream of being a medevac pilot.

McDonald was one three people on board the chopper that crashed last month. Flight nurse Deb Schott also died in the crash, and another employee was injured.

North Memorial Health CEO Kevin Croston spoke about the incident at Tuesday’s funeral for the first time since the crash happened.

“We at North Memorial really are a family, and Tim and Deb we’re a very important part of that family and we’re going to miss them,” Croston said.

Croston said his team’s spirits have been lifted during this painful time by the large number of people who have reached out to show their support.

“Nobody signs up to have this kind of an outcome, but these are folks that give their lives to service and that’s why I think you see the support you do,” Croston said.

Also among those who showed up to grieve were about 20 of McDonald’s former hockey teammates from Gustavus Adolphus College. Mike Hoolihan said McDonald took him under his wing when he was a freshman and McDonald was a junior.

“That will stay with me, that will stay with our team … the way that he led, that he cared, he showed compassion for everybody that he ever came in contact with, really an exceptional person,” Hoolihan said.

The funeral ended with an aerial salute called the “Missing Man Formation” where four medical choppers flew over the church, and one of them abruptly left the formation while the remaining three continue flying on.

McDonald was buried afterwards at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Croston says their medical choppers will remain grounded for now, even though the FAA has approved them for flying. He says he will release a plan for a return for service next week.

Deb Schott

BRAINERD, Minn. — A North Memorial Air Care pilot and a nurse were killed following an early Friday morning helicopter crash in Brainerd.

Three North Memorial Health crew members, who, officials said worked in the Brainerd area, were on board when the helicopter crashed at 1 a.m. at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard said a pilot and a nurse were reported dead at the scene of the crash. A third crew member was taken to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and their condition was unknown as of Friday afternoon.

Steve Wright, Brainerd airport director, said details on the helicopter’s flight information or what led to the crash was unknown. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were notified and are investigating the crash. Wright said the helicopter crashed in the middle of the airport, where the runways intersect.

“We have a lot of questions on this event that happened this morning,” Wright said later Friday morning. “We’re not sure if they were coming or going.

“We are a small airport community and we deal with these medical helicopters who are part of the emergency management system. So when our emergency responders respond to these types of events, it really hits close to home. These team members of the North Memorial crews and the other airport crews around here put their lives on the line for the community be safe. … We are asking for thoughts and prayers for these families and surviving members and those who are connected with these people who put their lives on the line day in and day out.”

Sheriff Goddard said, “Our hearts and prayers go out to all involved. We work with all our emergency service responders on a daily basis and everybody is one big, very close-knit family and this strikes us at the heart of what we do. This is an unfortunate tragedy.”

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Brainerd police and fire department and the Baxter Police Department responded to the accident.


Wright said the airport will remain operational as the FAA and NTSB perform their investigations. The airport will still have its ribbon-cutting open house from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday for its new general aviation terminal. The open house will feature speakers including local government leaders and a special appearance by Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

A prayer vigil for the victims of the crash is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sunday at Whipple Beach Recreational Area in Baxter. In case of inclement weather, the vigil will be held under the shelter at the park.


The last known crash of a North Memorial Air Care helicopter was Sept. 16, 2016. The helicopter and its crew of three crashed near the edge of Lake Winona in Alexandria, about 86 miles southwest of Brainerd. All three Brainerd-based North Memorial crew members were hospitalized in critical condition at North Memorial in Robbinsdale.

A North Memorial spokesperson stated after the 2016 crash that it has been flying for more than 30 years and none of its helicopters have ever crashed. North Memorial owns Agusta helicopters, which fly at speeds up to 200 mph and are known to be the fastest civilian helicopters on the market.

North Memorial Air Care has bases in Brainerd, Bemidji, Princeton, Redwood Falls and Lakeville. North Memorial owns two hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area, including North Memorial Level 1 Medical Center in Robbinsdale, and has ground ambulance stations in Brainerd, Brooklyn Center and other cities throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Original article can be found here ➤

BRAINERD – A North Memorial Health helicopter on approach to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport crashed early Friday, killing the pilot and a nurse and injuring a crew member who was on board.

The pilot and nurse were pronounced dead at the scene. The crew member was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center here, according to a statement released by North Memorial. The condition of the crew member has not been disclosed.

No patients were being transported at the time of the crash.

Gary Schott of Biscay, Minnesota, confirmed that his wife, Deb Schott, 58, was the nurse who died.

Conditions were foggy when the AgustaWestland AW109S Grand helicopter went down inside a fenced area at the airport just northeast of this central Minnesota city about 1 a.m., said airport director Steve Wright. He said he did not know what caused the crash and was awaiting results of a pending investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation and Safety Board.

The National Weather Service in Duluth said dense fog cloaked the Brainerd area when the crash occurred, reducing visibility to about a quarter mile.

Though the accident was next to the runway, the airport was operating Friday. Another medical helicopter based at the airport will continue to respond to emergencies in the region, Wright said.

Ninety employees work at 13 businesses based at the airport, including two medical helicopter emergency management crews, he said.

“And we’re a really close-knit community,” Wright said. “So these people that fly in the helicopters, people that are flying on the airplanes, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. So it does really hit hard.

“And so just please share thoughts and prayers with the friends and families of the crews that lost their lives.”

According to scanner audio, a dispatcher reported that they “just got a call from Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, not really sure what’s going on, it was from North, somebody out there, North called for a mayday there, requesting squads Code 3.”

Fire crews were then called to the airport for a “possible plane crash.” Shortly afterward, a rescuer called in “Three people on the site. Pilot’s still talking.”

First responders, which included the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, Brainerd Police and Fire Departments and Baxter Police Department, “did a stellar job. Hats off to them,” Wright said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is in charge of the investigation, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, an FAA spokeswoman.

Other A109 series crashes

In 2016, three people were seriously injured when a North Memorial helicopter crashed near Alexandria, Minn. under similar conditions. In that case, the pilot and two medical crew members were flying cross-country to pick up a patient. The NTSB investigation shows that weather conditions deteriorated during an instrument approach to the airport and the pilot was unable to see the airport and initiated a go-round maneuver. The helicopter banked right and sped up until it hit treetops and crashed into the ground on its right side. The NTSB attributed the crash to pilot error.

The Alexandria crash is one of 46 accidents and incidents reported to the FAA from 1987 through this month involving Agusta helicopters in the A-109 series. Of those, 48 people were killed in 19 accidents. There were 22 nonfatal accidents and four relatively minor incidents. Information on one report in Greece was unavailable.

The most recent A-109 helicopter accident in the database took place June 10, when a corporate helicopter crashed on top of a building on east 34th Street in New York City in foggy weather, killing the pilot. That crash remains under investigation. The FAA reported that the pilot was not licensed to fly in poor weather. A law enforcement source said the pilot had radioed that he was lost, according to the New York Times.

North Memorial Air Care has bases in Brainerd, Bemidji, Eveleth-Virginia, Princeton, Redwood Falls and Faribault in Minnesota and in Siren, Wis. It owns and operates nine AgustaWestland A-109 helicopters, the fastest civilian helicopter on the market, which can reach speeds up to 180 miles per hour, according to the company’s website. Air Care teams respond to about 4,500 medical flight transportation service calls throughout Minnesota and areas of Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas, according to the North Memorial website.

North Memorial is based in Robbinsdale, where it has a hospital. It also has a hospital in Maple Grove as well as clinics in the north and northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities, including in Buffalo, Monticello and Elk River.

Between 2009 and this year, U.S. civil helicopters flew more than 31 million flight hours and experienced 1,298 crashes, including 209 fatal crashes. Air ambulances accounted for 7 percent of crashes, the lowest percentage in a ranking of industries with the best and worst records for total helicopter accidents and fatal accidents conducted by the FAA’s U.S. Helicopter Safety Team.

Original article ➤


  1. Lots of A109 model helicopters crashing in recent weeks. I think this is the 3rd one?

  2. Night and dense fog. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. You really can't tell much of anything from the photographs. Seems to be covered up by tarps.. Probably to keep the weather off of the aircraft to preserve forensic evidence and clues to the crashed aircraft. From what I can see, all four top rotor blades seem to be there. One seems to be damaged In other crashes I have seen , it is typical for the aircraft to lean to one side and the rotor blades usually dig into the ground. Have not seen any photos to know if it was moved to an upright position or not.. Many guesses, could have been a rear rotor failure , makes the aircraft spin the opposite direction or the top rotor.. making control difficult. Could have been a bird hit, and damage to the top blades. Will be interesting to see the NTSB and FAA report.. There have been a number of crashes yes.. But teams of engineers build these aircraft, pilots test them before they are sold for commercial use. Until I see some reall evidence of a problem with the aircraft I will reserve judgment.. Oh those poor people, my heart aches in sorrow for their deaths.

    1. I'm tims son and I don't think it was error