Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Low Altitude Operation/Event: Bell OH-58A, N288NS; accident occurred February 18, 2020 in Calexico, Imperial County, California

Forward Fuselage 

 Top of Helicopter and Engine Compartment 

 Cabin Area 

Left Side of Helicopter 

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Calexico, California 
Accident Number: WPR20CA092
Date & Time: February 17, 2020, 19:15 Local
Registration: N288NS
Aircraft: Bell OH 58A 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Low altitude operation/event
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural


The pilot reported that, during an agricultural application flight, he sprayed a row on the field and then climbed the helicopter to avoid wires on the south side of the field. He then turned the helicopter right and began to descend back to the field. After he cleared the wires, he entered the field's spray line and began raising the collective and noticed that the torque gauge was responding; however, he failed to arrest the descent, and the helicopter subsequently impacted terrain and came to rest on its right side. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to arrest the descent rate while maneuvering at low altitude, which resulted in impact with terrain.


Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Aircraft Descent rate - Not attained/maintained

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying Miscellaneous/other
Maneuvering-low-alt flying Low altitude operation/event (Defining event)
Uncontrolled descent Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Post-impact Roll over

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial; Flight instructor 
Age: 41,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land 
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: April 18, 2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: April 11, 2019
Flight Time: 2713 hours (Total, all aircraft), 713 hours (Total, this make and model), 2583 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell 
Registration: N288NS
Model/Series: OH 58A No Series 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1970 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted (Special) 
Serial Number: 70-15288
Landing Gear Type: High skid
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: November 28, 2019 100 hour 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3200 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 32 Hrs 
Engines: 1 Turbo shaft
Airframe Total Time: 11218 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Rolls Royce
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: C20C SERIES
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 420 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC) 
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: IPL,-54 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Imperial, CA (IPL) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Imperial, CA (IPL)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 10:15 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.133335,-115.699996(est)