Friday, December 27, 2019

Hard Landing: Eurocopter AS.350-B2, N894NA; accident occurred September 29, 2018 in Ruidoso, Lincoln County, New Mexico

View of damaged lower vertical stabilizer.
Federal Aviation Administration

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Albuquerque, New Mexico

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Ruidoso, NM
Accident Number: GAA18CA571
Date & Time: 09/29/2018, 1510 MDT
Registration: N894NA
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER AS350
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Hard landing
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled - Air Medical (Unspecified) 

View of damaged fuselage.
Federal Aviation Administration

The helicopter pilot reported that while enroute to the ski resort to pick up a patient, he decided to conduct an eastbound reconnaissance over the landing site and, after he saw the ground personnel, while scanning for obstacles, he spotted two cables in front and below the aircraft's flight path and initiated a go-around. He added power to clear the cables, and once the tail cleared the cables, he lowered the collective due to a slight droop in the main rotor speed. As he continued with the go-around, he initiated a 180º left turn to attempt an approach into the landing site. During the westward approach, about 20 feet above the ground, the main rotor speed decayed when he raised the collective to reduce his descent rate. He felt that due to his "faster than normal" decent rate, he would not be able to cushion the landing. Prior to touchdown, a medical crew member spotted an elevated steel barrier cable below and the pilot applied another 90º turn to the left to avoid a tail rotor strike. The helicopter touched down hard, bounced, rotated about 180º counterclockwise over the barrier cable, slid down an embankment, and came to rest upright.

The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and vertical stabilizer.

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

The pilot further reported that during his preflight preparation, he did not calculate the hover in ground effect value (HIGE), the hover out of ground effect value (HOGE), or the density altitude for the designated landing site. He added that the accident flight was his second flight in a high altitude, mountainous environment and that most of his flight hours were accumulated at sea level in Texas. He was also not aware that there was an approach, landing and takeoff procedure provided by the ski resort.

The director of operations added that the company was not aware that there were dedicated procedures for helicopter medical evacuation. The crew members added that the crew resource management skills and procedures were lacking, prior to and during the accident. They reported that there was no destination or helicopter performance briefing included with the helicopter preflight.

The pilot added that he should have completed the go-around and circled back around to land.

The Federal Aviation Administration inspector reported, during the time of the accident, the density altitude for the landing site at 9,793 ft was over 12,000 ft.

The automated weather observation station located on an airport about 14 NM away, reported that, about the time of the accident, the wind was from 220° at 9 knots, gusting 17 knots. The pilot reported the wind was variable, about 5 knots. The helicopter was landing to the west. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 53, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/04/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/12/2018
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 16818 hours (Total, all aircraft), 3526 hours (Total, this make and model), 16818 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 56 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 26 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: EUROCOPTER
Registration: N894NA
Model/Series: AS350 B2
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1996
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 2904
Landing Gear Type: Skid
Seats: 5
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/09/2018, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 4961 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time: 8199.4 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Turbomeca
Engine Model/Series: Arriel 1D1
Registered Owner: Roberts Aircraft Co
Rated Power:
Operator: Trans Aero Limited
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Commuter Air Carrier (135)
Operator Does Business As: Trans Aero MedEvac
Operator Designator Code: O4VA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSRR, 6810 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 14 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2115 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 77°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 9 knots / 17 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 220°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.27 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C / 5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Artesia, NM (ATS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Unknown
Destination: El Paso, TX
Type of Clearance: Unknown
Departure Time:  CST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 3 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude: 33.396667, -105.785833 (est)


  1. He's a flight instructor? Let's just throw everything we know about being a pilot and throw it out the window.
    -didn't know the approach and departure procedures
    -didn't understand air density fundamentals and how they impact flight characteristics

    I try to read these things and give the benefit of the doubt. But, damn. If he has 16,000 hours of PIC, then the presumption is complacency.

    Glad everyone is safe.

  2. In addition to the density altitude mistake, pilot expectation of zip lines at resorts is another lesson from this accident.

    Zip line systems pose a unique hazard to aviation in that there are no orange marker balls on the cables, no poles or other supports between the two end stations and no cleared vegetation line underneath the run.

    Visual pre-approach survey activity for helicopter operation at resort locations includes the burden of expecting zip line systems. Pilot discipline must include looking for/recognizing zip line end stations and working out where to expect the unseen cables as routine practice.

  3. Views of the parking lot with zip lines crossing high above it can be seen at:

    No easy solutions exist to make long zip line cables visible between ends. Night rescue approach would be particularly challenging.