Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Bell OH-58A-BF Kiowa / Arrow Falcon Exporters OH-5, N901XV: Accident occurred July 30, 2020 in Holtville, Imperial County, California

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Diego, California

Location: Holtville, CA
Accident Number: WPR20LA247
Date & Time: 07/30/2020, 2045 PDT
Registration: N901XV
Aircraft: BELL OH58A
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On July 30, 2020, at 2045 Pacific daylight time, a Bell OH-58A helicopter, N901XV, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Holtville, California. The pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 137 agricultural flight.

The pilot stated that after his initial departure, he touched down to pick up his first load. After he completed dispersing two loads he returned back to the loader and added another load. He made a normal takeoff and completed three passes over the intended field. As he approached wires, the pilot maneuvered the helicopter into a climb and prepared to make a fourth pass. After completing a left turn back to the field, the engine experienced a total loss of power. He performed an autorotation and during the touchdown, the helicopter collided into haystacks.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BELL
Registration: N901XV
Model/Series: OH58A
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: A Farmer Service Corp.
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation: KIPL, -58 ft msl
Observation Time: 0353 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 40°C / 11°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 230°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.68 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Imperial, CA (IPL)
Destination: Imperial, CA (IPL)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 32.763056, -115.276944 (est)

(UPDATE 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1: Identity of pilot and his condition were added to the story.)

The pilot of a downed crop-dusting helicopter sustained minor facial trauma that left him bloodied but largely uninjured after a crash north of Holtville on July 30, explained the pilot’s son, who is also the owner of the crop-dusting company.

“He’s back at home. He got some minor cuts and bruises, but he was back home yesterday (July 31),” said Amador Fernandez Jr., pilot/owner of A Farmer Service Corp. when he was contacted for an update on his father’s condition Aug. 1.

Pilot Amador Fernandez Sr., who was the only person on board during the crash, was transported to a San Diego-area hospital by ground ambulance purely as a precaution, Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva said July 31, but the pilot actually refused local medical transport and initially was driven to the El Centro Regional Medical Center emergency room by a co-worker after the 8:30 p.m. crash.

Amador Fernandez Jr. was on scene when the helicopter went down, but he couldn’t comment on what might have caused the crash because it is now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The helicopter crash occurred about one mile northeast of Holtville near Norrish Road where it intersects with Bridenstine Road, confirmed Silva.

“Bystanders” heard “the engine sputtering” before the Arrow Falcon Exporters OH-5 helicopter collided with a stack of hay bales while dusting an alfalfa field, Silva explained.

He described the rotorcraft as a total loss and said the dusting company’s workers were on site removing the helicopter the morning of July 31.

Fernandez Jr. said his father crashed into the bales as he was attempting to safely land following engine trouble on a nearby dirt roadway, but he said the helicopter was going too fast and went into the bales instead.

Fernandez Jr. said his dad was just trying to survive.

Meanwhile, Silva said the helicopter was carrying a “low-grade pesticide” that was spilled in the area.

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