Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Eurocopter AS 350B2 Ecureuil, N160SH: Accident occurred August 25, 2020 in Ninilchik, Alaska

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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska 
Soloy Helicopters; Wasilla, Alaska 
Honeywell Aerospace; Phoenix, Arizona 

Alaska Helicopter Leasing LLC

Location: Ninilchik, AK 
Accident Number: ANC20LA083
Date & Time: August 25, 2020
Registration: N160SH
Aircraft: Eurocopter AS350
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled

On August 25, 2020, about 0709 Alaska daylight time, a Eurocopter (Airbus) AS350 B2 helicopter, N160SH, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Ninilchik, Alaska. The commercial pilot sustained minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations part 135 air taxi flight.

The pilot reported that he was operating at the Johnson River Tract mining camp located in the Alaska Mountain Range west of the Cook Inlet. He was transporting workers to and from various mining sites about 3 miles from the main camp. On the morning of the accident, he conducted a preflight and sumped fuel from the helicopter's main fuel tank and the airframe fuel filters. All samples were clear and bright. The fuel level was about 40%, which corresponded to about 55 gallons of Jet A. There were no known discrepancies. He had flown the helicopter most every day for the previous 2 months and was very familiar with it.

On the morning of the accident, the pilot departed the main camp about 0655 with 4 passengers and disembarked 2 of them at a low elevation drill pad, and then he flew to a high mountainside helipad, which was located about 2,750 ft mean-sea-level (msl) cut into a rocky steep slope, and disembarked the other 2 passengers. He flew the helicopter to a nearby site and waited a short time for the off going workers to be ready for pick up. He departed and made another approach to the helipad. The pilot stated that when the helicopter was about 25 ft from the landing site, at very slow forward airspeed, the engine "flamed out" and the helicopter yawed right. Witnesses reported seeing a puff of smoke and hearing loud alarms when the engine lost power. The pilot continued the right turn, lowered the collective and attempted to autorotate to a level area about 600 ft below the helipad. When the pilot realized that the helicopter could not make the intended site, he slowed down by applying some aft stick and increasing collective to cushion the touchdown. The helicopter landed on the skids facing down the mountain and continued to slide. The left skid impacted a rock and the helicopter rolled over and continued down the mountain, resulting in the tail section separating. The helicopter came to rest on a drill pad under construction about 200 ft below the helipad, on its left side. Refer to figure 1. The tail section, fuselage and main rotor blades sustained substantial damage. The mining workers at the helipad called for assistance, hiked down to the site, and assisted the pilot. 

The helicopter was recovered from the remote camp and examined by the investigative team. The Honeywell LTS101-700D2 turbine engine was secure on the airframe and intact. No airframe or engine anomalies, other than impact damage, were observed. The engine was shipped to Honeywell Engines division for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Eurocopter 
Registration: N160SH
Model/Series: AS350 B2 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft external load (133), On-demand air taxi (135)
Operator Designator Code: 2SYA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAHO,73 ft msl
Observation Time: 14:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 53 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C /9°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 50°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 1200 ft AGL 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.78 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Ninilchik, AK
Destination: Ninilchik, AK

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 60.124721,-152.945281 (est)

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