Thursday, January 09, 2020

Bell 407, N663SF: Fatal accident occurred December 25, 2019 at Headland Municipal Airport (0J6), Henry County, Alabama

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Birmingham, Alabama
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana
Bell Helicopter; Montreal, Quebec

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Headland, AL
Accident Number: ERA20FA056
Date & Time: 12/25/2019, 1713 CST
Registration: N663SF
Aircraft: Bell 407
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled - Air Medical (Medical Emergency) 

On December 25, 2019, about 1713 central standard time, a single-engine, turbine-powered Bell 407 helicopter, N663SF, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain while attempting to land at the Headland Municipal Airport (0J6), Headland, Alabama. The commercial pilot was fatally injured, and the flight nurse and paramedic were not injured. The helicopter was operated by Viking, LLC, doing business as Survival Flight, Inc, as a medical emergency flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. A company visual flight rules flight plan was filed, and visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed 0J6 about 1654.

The flight nurse, who was seated in the aft right seat, stated that they had initially responded to an accident in Bonifay, Florida. The flight was cancelled en route, and they were returning to base. The flight nurse said the return flight was normal, and the helicopter was "working beautifully." The pilot approached the helipad slightly faster than normal. As it neared the helipad, the helicopter made an abrupt "roll" to the left. The pilot did not say anything and did not correct for the roll. The helicopter impacted terrain and it "battered" around on the ground before coming to a stop on its left side. The flight nurse said that he and the flight paramedic unbuckled their restraints, exited the helicopter from the aft right door, and immediately tended to the pilot. The flight nurse said his first instinct was that the pilot had some sort of cardiac event. Using his flashlight, he could see that the pilot's face was blue, he was not breathing, and was unresponsive. The engine was still running, so another pilot (who witnessed and responded to the accident) did an emergency shutdown, and all three of them pulled the pilot out of the helicopter from the windshield and immediately initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The flight paramedic, who was seated in the aft left seat, said that about 2 minutes before landing, the pilot asked him and the flight nurse if they were "secure" for landing, and he said he was. The flight nurse said the helicopter was approaching the helipad "a little fast." When it was about 10-15 ft above the ground the helicopter rolled 45° to the left. The flight nurse said, "It felt as if no correction was made and [the helicopter] continued to the ground. I could hear rotors striking the ground." When the helicopter stopped moving, he and the flight nurse exited the helicopter via the aft right door. The engine was still running so it was shut down. The pilot, who was unconscious and not breathing, was pulled from the helicopter and immediately administered CPR.

A witness, who was also a helicopter pilot, said he had just left the operator's hangar in his truck and had pulled onto an adjacent road when he first saw the helicopter making a "shallow approach" to the helipad. He turned his attention away for a moment, but when he looked back, the helicopter had impacted the ground and he could see "flying debris and water from the nearby pond." The witness turned around, drove to the crash site, parked, and called 911. He then observed the flight nurse and paramedic exiting the helicopter. The engine was still running, and the main rotor head was still turning. The witness crawled in the helicopter and observed that the pilot was unresponsive and laying over the controls. The witness had one of the crew members move the pilot so he could perform an emergency shutdown of the engine. The pilot's seatbelt was then unbuckled, and all three pulled the pilot from the wreckage via the windshield. CPR was initiated until an ambulance arrived.

The helicopter impacted level, soft grass, about 120 ft west-northwest of the helipad. It came to rest on its left side on a heading of about 103° in about 3 to 6-inches of standing water from recent rainfall. There was not postimpact fire. Flight and engine control continuity were established for the engine, main rotor and tail rotor system, by manual manipulation of the anti-torque pedals, collective and cyclic in the cockpit. No mechanical issues were observed that would have precluded normal operation at the time of impact.

The pilot, age 61, held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane; a commercial pilot certificate with a ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. He also held a flight instructor certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. The pilot's last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical was issued on April 1, 2019. According to the operator, the pilot had accrued a total of 9,455 flight hours; of which, 9,303 hours were in helicopters.

Weather reported at 0J6 at 1753 was reported as wind from 090 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, and clear skies. The temperature was 16° C, the dewpoint was 8° C, and the altimeter setting was 30.09 inches Hg.

Rotorcraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N663SF
Model/Series: 407 No Series
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Viking Aviation, LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As: Survival Flight, LLC
Operator Designator Code: 2VKA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: K0J6, 358 ft msl
Observation Time: 1653 CST
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 90°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.09 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Headland, AL (0J6)
Destination: Headland, AL (0J6) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 31.364167, -85.312500 (est)

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 

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