Thursday, June 09, 2022

Bell 407, N402SH: Accident occurred June 08, 2022 in Kalea, Hawaii

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 traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Honolulu, Hawaii 
Federal Aviation Administration; Washington, District of Columbia
Paradise Helicopters; Kona, Hawaii
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana

Operated by Paradise Helicopters

Registered to K & S Helicopters Inc

Location: Kalea, Hawaii
Accident Number: ANC22FA041
Date and Time: June 8, 2022, 17:26 Local
Registration: N402SH
Aircraft: Bell 407 
Injuries: 3 Serious, 3 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled - Sightseeing

On June 8, 2022, about 1726 Hawaii-Aleutian standard time, a Bell 407 helicopter, N402SH, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Kalea, Hawaii, on the island of Hawaii. The pilot and two passengers sustained serious injuries, and three passengers sustained minor injuries. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on-demand air tour flight.

According to a representative of the operator, Paradise Helicopters, about 1701, the helicopter departed the company base at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (PHKO), Kona, Hawaii, to the south for an air tour flight around the island. Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast and company flight track data showed the helicopter traveled southeast about 500-600 ft above ground level and between airspeeds of 122 and 127 knots.

The pilot reported that the first part of the flight was normal; about 30 minutes into the flight, the helicopter experienced a violent upset, followed by an uncontrolled spin (yaw) to the right.

A passenger, seated in the aft left forward-facing seat reported that as the helicopter continued to spin, she observed something fall off the helicopter; however, she was not able to identify a specific part.

The flight track data showed a rapid descent and decrease in airspeed at the end of the flight track, consistent with the occupants’ statements.

The helicopter continued to spin uncontrollably while it descended, and it subsequently struck an area of rough, uneven, lava-covered terrain and came to rest on its left side. (See Figure 1.)

After the impact, an emergency call was placed by a passenger to report that the helicopter had crashed.

An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Alaska Regional Office, along with an NTSB airworthiness investigator, an NTSB survival factors investigator, and an NTSB maintenance investigator from Washington, D.C., responded to the island of Hawaii.

An NTSB on site examination of the accident site revealed the tail boom came to rest about 762 ft northeast from the main wreckage, which consisted of the fuselage, engine, and main rotor system. The tail boom separated from the fuselage at the tail boom attach point. (See Figure 2.) The upper left attachment fitting fastener was not present, and the lower left attachment fitting was fractured and displayed fatigue signatures. The fasteners for the lower left, lower right, and upper right attachment fittings were present.

A review of the accident helicopter’s maintenance records revealed that the most recent tail boom attachment fasteners torque check (per Task #DMC-407-A-53-01-00-00A-72A) was completed on May 4, 2022, at a total airframe time of 22,891.4 flight hours. At the time of the accident, the helicopter had accumulated 23,005.6 flight hours (114.2 flight hours since the torque check), and no additional maintenance had been conducted to that attachment location.

The tail boom (part number: 407-030-801-205D; serial number BP-1598) was installed on August 23, 2009, at a total airframe time of 5,780.0 hours and had not been removed prior to the accident.

Portions of the tail boom structure, aft fuselage structure, attachment fittings and fasteners were retained for further examination by the NTSB’s Materials Laboratory. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N402SH
Model/Series: 407
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built:
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand air taxi (135)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PHKO,37 ft msl
Observation Time: 17:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 49 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C /21°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4900 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / , 250°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 7000 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.98 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Kona, HI (PHKO)
Destination: Kalea, HI

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Serious, 3 Minor 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Serious, 3 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 19.005372,-155.65457 (est)

Rotorcraft crashed under known circumstances. 

Date: 08-JUN-22
Time: 03:29:00Z
Regis#: N402SH
Aircraft Make: BELL
Aircraft Model: 407
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 135
City: KONA

HONOLULU (KHON2) — National Transportation Safety Board investigators are scheduled to arrive Monday to look into the cause of the crash in Ka’u on the Big Island Wednesday evening. The accident once again brings to light concerns regarding the safety of the popular tours.

Mangled metal debris was ripped apart and smashed into a barren lava field. That was all that was left of the Bell 407 helicopter. Luckily the pilot and five passengers survived.

A team of four NTSB investigators will arrive in Kona Monday to examine the wreckage and continue the investigation.

Paradise Helicopters has had five crashes in the last 20 years.

Attorney Rick Fried was involved with their crash in 2019, and has concerns since the NTSB found the cause of that crash was “fuel exhaustion.”

“When you fly, it’s not like if you run out of gas in your car,” said Fried, who is also a pilot. “We have a checklist that must be followed. One of them is — make sure you’ve got fuel. It seems so painfully obvious.”

Helicopter pilot and attorney Ladd Sanger, who worked on the 2019 case with Fried, said it’s very concerning for a part 135 operator to run a helicopter out of gas.

“That goes to the dispatch procedures, that goes to the pilot pre-flight procedures,” Sanger explained. “And so I think that we need to look at what is this operator’s culture of safety.”

As a whole Sanger said there are far too many helicopter crashes in Hawaii.

According to the NTSB, there have been 41 helicopter crashes since 1997, including Wednesday’s crash. Fifteen of them fatal resulting in 51 deaths

It happens so frequently Congressman Ed Case, a long time proponent for stiffer safety regulations, said it’s no longer surprising.

“I think it could happen on any given day, any given company. And that’s just unacceptable,” Case explained. “It’s not just about the tour helicopters not doing their job. It’s about the Federal Aviation Administration not doing its job.”

Lawsuit filed against tour helicopter company after hard landing on Kauai
During an NTSB board meeting last month, Chair Jennifer Homendy blasted the FAA, holding them at least partially accountable for a crash in December of 2019 that killed seven people in Kekaha.

“The NTSB has issued recommendation after recommendation to the FAA following accident after accident which would have, if implemented, prevented the deaths of the four adults and three children (the youngest of whom was 10-years-old) who died in this tragedy,” Homendy said.

In a statement FAA said:

“A number of safety initiatives are already underway, including the installation of five weather cameras in Hawaii with another 21 on the way. Air tour operators can apply to the FAA’s voluntary Safety Management System program, and the FAA is developing rulemaking to make these advanced safety practices a requirement. Additionally, the FAA encourages air tour operators to equip their aircraft with ADS-B and flight data recorders, and are considering making these recorders mandatory.”

Case said if the FAA doesn’t do it, Congress will pass legislation to make them do it.

“The FAA has to look in the mirror and ask itself whether it is doing what it needs to do to assure the safety of not only the people in the helicopters, but the people on the ground,” said Case. “Because on any given day, a helicopter could crash into people on the ground.”

In April of 2019 one almost did. Three people aboard the chopper died in that crash. It landed in Kailua on a busy residential street.

Two people were seriously injured after a tour helicopter crash with six occupants went down Wednesday evening near South Point.

The downed rotorcraft, operated by Paradise Helicopters Tours of Hawai‘i, was reported to Hawai‘i Fire Department at 5:32 p.m. According to HFD officials, ground crews were unable to access the crash site, which was in an open lava field between Ranchos Subdivision and South Point Road, in a timely manner. Chopper 1 was first on scene and reported four ambulatory patients and two with more serious injuries.

Chopper 1 initially extricated three women, ages 18, 19 and 23. The patients were taken to ground medic units staged at the south end of Menehune Road. HFD reports that Chopper 2 arrive on scene shortly after and extricated the most seriously injured patient, a 19-year-old woman to ground crews where advanced life support protocols were initiated. Chopper 2 returned to the crash site to pick up the second seriously injured patient, a 54-year-old man.

Chopper 1 extricated a fourth patient who was walking around, a 48-year-old man.

The most critical patient was transported by Chopper 2 to Kona Community Hospital. All other patients were also taken to KCH.