Friday, October 18, 2019

Bell 206B JetRanger II, N167AG: Fatal accident occurred October 17, 2019 in New Salem, Union County, North Carolina

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Charlotte, North Carolina

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: New Salem, NC
Accident Number: ERA20FA012
Date & Time: 10/17/2019, 1538 EDT
Registration: N167AG
Aircraft: Bell 206
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On October 17, 2019, about 1538 eastern daylight time, a Bell 206B, N167AG, was substantially damaged when it impacted powerlines and terrain near New Salem, North Carolina. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was owned and operated by Vertical Flight Technologies under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local aerial application flight, which originated about 1534.

A team of ground personnel consisting of two employees who operated a mobile ground truck, and according to the lead person, the pilot performed a preflight inspection of the helicopter about 0745 for a day of aerial application, with no anomalies noted. The pilot had previously conducted numerous applications in the local area, then relocated the helicopter to the accident field for the first time. The ground personnel relocated the mobile truck to a location northwest of the field to be sprayed and waited for the helicopter to approach and land.

After refilling the chemical reservoir, and through the use of hand signals, the lead dispatched the helicopter for about the 22nd aerial application of the day. The pilot departed to the north and made a left turn to a southerly heading, then tracked to the south while flying along the west side of the field. The pilot then turned north near the service road to the field. After the helicopter had been flying for about two minutes, the lead heard a "pop" and when he turned around to look at the helicopter, he saw it travel about 30 yards before impacting terrain. He then ran toward the accident site and attempted to render assistance to the pilot.

Examination of the accident site revealed that a powerline with two wires was strung on along a magnetic heading of 353° across the road servicing the property at the southern edge of the field. At the point where the helicopter impacted the ground, the two wires would have been transitioning across the road at a height approximately 35 to 45 feet above the ground. The helicopter came to rest on its right-side, in nose low attitude, and on a magnetic heading of 351°. All major components of the helicopter were accounted for at the scene. The main rotor mast fractured about 2 inches below the bottom of the hub and the hub was located to the left of the cockpit with both fragmented rotor blades. A section of powerline wire laid across the nose of the helicopter, over the top of the cockpit and around the main rotor mast and was entangled in the spray system. Additionally, about five rotations of wire were wrapped around the tail rotor hub and blade assembly.

Flight control system continuity was established from the pilot side cyclic and collective through the push-pull control tubes to the three hydraulic servo actuators. Continuity was confirmed from the servos through fractures of the control tubes exhibiting features consistent with overload separation, to the swashplate assembly on the main rotor mast. The blade pitch change links remained attached at both ends and were fractured consistent with overload. Control continuity was established from the anti-torque pedals continuously to the tail rotor hub and blade assembly. The tail rotor blade pitch change links remained intact and attached. An examination of the twist grip throttle linkage confirmed throttle continuity to the fuel controller on the engine. The copilot (left side) cyclic and collective controls were not installed.

The engine remained attached to the engine mounts. The compressor air inlet revealed damage to the 1st-stage compressor blades in the direction opposite of rotation, and the compressor could not be rotated by hand. Rotational scoring was also observed on the top of the air inlet housing.

The main gearbox was found rotated aft about 45° with the engine to transmission drive shaft pulled from the main gearbox attachment fitting. The mast rotated freely by hand.

The tail rotor shaft was fractured just forward of the horizontal stabilizer. The shaft remained attached to the engine reduction gear box and showed rotational scoring just forward of the fracture. When the tail rotor shaft was rotated the freewheeling unit engaged, when the shaft was rotated in the opposite direction it turned freely. The shaft aft of the fractures was continuous to the tail rotor gear box and turned freely when rotated by hand.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

According to FAA airworthiness records, the helicopter was manufactured in 1974. It was equipped with a Rolls-Royce 250C20 series, 370-horsepower turboshaft engine.

According to FAA airmen records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. At the time of the accident, the pilot held a second-class medical certificate issued on February 19, 2019. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed a total of 5,670 hours of flight experience in helicopters.

The weather conditions reported about 1953 at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport (EQY), Monroe, North Carolina about 17 miles southwest of the accident site, included visibility of 10 miles, clear sky, wind from 310° at 10 knots, temperature 19°C, dew point 01°C, and a barometric altimeter setting of 29.88 inches of mercury.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N167AG
Model/Series:206 B 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Vertical Flight Technologies
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137); Commercial Space Transp. Experimental Permit

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: 
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Observation Time: 1953 UTC
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots / , 310°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.88 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Albemarle, NC
Destination: New Salem, NC

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.149167, -80.362222

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

Andrew Alan STEPHEN was born on March 3, 1965 and passed away on October 17, 2019. 

In care of McEwen Funeral Home of Monroe Monroe, NC 704-289-3173

The crop-dusting pilot who died Thursday when his aircraft got tangled in power lines over a North Carolina field has been identified as Andrew Alan Stephen by the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Stephen, 54, of Florida, was the lone occupant of the helicopter when it went down west of the 6900 block of N.C. 205, north of New Salem, according to a sheriff’s office Facebook post. The area is about 30 miles east of Charlotte.

“The helicopter (was) spraying herbicide in the field when the aircraft became entangled in a power line before crashing,” Union County officials said.

The helicopter was “very heavily damaged,” reported the Observer’s news partner WBTV.

Investigators told WCNC the pilot was “working under contract with Vertical Flight Technologies” at the time of the incident. A witness in the field at the time of the crash was identified by the station as the pilot’s partner.

The crash occurred around 5 p.m. Thursday and state and county first responders rushed to the site, along with the Union County Fire Marshal’s Office.

“Deputies remain on scene pending arrival of FAA investigators today,” the department said Friday morning.

UNION COUNTY, North Carolina - A pilot was killed when a helicopter crashed Thursday afternoon near New Salem in Union County at the Stanly County line, officials said.

the accident happened near N.C. Highway 205, which is near Swift Road.

The Bell 206B JetRanger II helicopter was spraying crops at 3:50 p.m. when it struck a power line and crashed into a heavily wooded area, FAA officials said in a statement.

No one else was aboard.

It was an unusual sight for residents and investigators in the Union County farming community.

"They're getting ready for the next crop, so yeah they're crop dusting and spraying the field. It's normal this kind of year," said resident Julia York.

In the quiet farming community of New Salem, residents expect to see land being prepared for next year's crops.

"He was actually spraying a herbicide in the timber," said Tony Underwood, with the Union County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators believe the pilot was flying about 30 to 35 feet above the ground.

"Apparently he got too low and became entangled in a power line and unfortunately the helicopter went straight to the ground," said Underwood.

The view from Chopper 9's Skyzoom showed the wreckage and a downed power line, which took down the pilot and helicopter in a wooded area.

"The cabin area where the pilot was sitting is still somewhat intact but (the rest) is broken into pieces," said Underwood.

York has lived in the area her whole life and can't recall an incident like what happened Thursday. She said neighbors said everyone started calling each other.

"Which is scary. I grew up on a farm. I'm from a farm. That's scary, because I know people from around here. It worries you, because you don't know who it might be," said York.

Investigators said the pilot was from Florida and had a partner, who witnessed the crash, working in the field below.

"They were a contract company out of Florida and apparently they go all along to the East Coast doing contract jobs such as the one behind me," said Underwood.

Dozens of agencies responded to the crash but couldn't save the pilot.

"It's very sad, very tragic, especially if he was just doing a job, to only gotten tangled in the power lines," said Underwood.

Investigators said the pilot's family in Florida has been notified and his name will be released soon.

Deputies secured the crash site Thursday as they wait for national investigators to arrive Friday morning from Washington, D.C.

Story and video ➤

MARSHVILLE, North Carolina — One person died after a helicopter crash in Union County late Thursday afternoon, an official confirmed to WCNC NBC Charlotte.

The crash happened around 4 p.m. near North Carolina 205 in the Marshville area of Union County. This was north of the New Salem community.

Investigators believed the crash occurred in a heavily wooded area after the Bell 206B JetRanger II helicopter became entangled in a power line. The helicopter had been spraying a field.

NBC Charlotte's Hunter Sáenz learned from the sheriff's office that the pilot who died was from Florida and was working under contract with Vertical Flight Technologies. 

The pilot's partner was at the field but not with him in the helicopter, the sheriff's office said.

The FAA will investigate, and the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the crash.

Story and video ➤

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