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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 68341
Last updated: 5 May 2019
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Date:25-SEP-2009
Time:23:31
Type:Silhouette image of generic AS50 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Eurocopter AS 350B2
Owner/operator:Carolina Life Care
Registration: N417AE
C/n / msn: 9032
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Category:Accident
Location:2 miles SW of Georgetown County Airport, Georgetown, South Carolina -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Nature:Unknown
Departure airport:Charleston, SC (CHS)
Destination airport:Conway, SC (HYW)
Narrative:
After conducting an interfacility patient transfer, the pilot refueled and then requested flight-following services from air traffic control, departing in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) for the return flight to his base. During the return flight, the pilot encountered instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). A review of Sky Connect data for the accident flight revealed that the helicopter was cruising at varying altitudes and never reached a steady state cruise altitude for any significant period of time. The majority of the flight was flown at altitudes below 1,000 feet with the greater part of the last 8-minute segment of the flight being operated below 800 feet. (The lowest altitude recorded during the last cruise segment of flight was 627 feet.) Witnesses who observed the helicopter before the accident described it as flying about 1,000 feet above ground level (agl), with its searchlight turning on and off, in moderate to heavy rain. A subsequent loss of control occurred, and the helicopter impacted terrain about 1.92 nautical miles (nm) southwest of Georgetown County Airport (GGE).

Postaccident examination of the main wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact failures or malfunctions of the engine, drive train, main rotor, tail rotor, or structure of the helicopter. Additionally, there was no indication of an in-flight fire.

During the first legs of his flight, the pilot experienced and observed VMC conditions along his route. However, postaccident witness reports and in-flight statements from the accident pilot indicated that the weather in the area had deteriorated since his southbound flight 2 hours prior. According to Omniflight’s Savannah, Georgia, base manager, who was also a pilot operating in the area on the night of the accident, the weather that night was deteriorating but was forecast to remain well above minimums for his flight from Savannah to Greenville, South Carolina, and then to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston. However, while he was refueling at the Greenville airport, the pilot of the accident helicopter contacted him by radio and advised him to double check the weather before returning to MUSC. The accident pilot stated that “bad thunderstorms” were in the GGE area and that he did not know if he would be able to return to his base that night. The Savannah base manager then advised the accident pilot that he could stay at the Charleston base that night. However, the accident pilot decided to return to his base at Conway-Horry County Airport (HYW), Conway, South Carolina.

Review of radar data and weather observations provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that, after departing, the helicopter entered an area of convective activity and precipitation. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research regional radar mosaic chart for 2333 also depicted a large area of echoes north of the frontal boundary, with several defined thunderstorms and rain showers extended over South Carolina and over the accident helicopter’s flight route. Additionally, correlation of the radar data to the location of the accident site revealed that several defined cells surrounded the site at the time of the accident.

The terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) for Myrtle Beach International Airport, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which was located 29 nm northeast of the accident site, was issued about 1928 and indicated expected marginal visual flight rules conditions through 0100 on September 26. From 2000 through 2130, variable winds to 15 knots with visibility of 4 miles in thunderstorms, moderate rain, and a broken ceiling of 3,500 feet agl in cumulonimbus clouds were expected. From 2130 to 0100, the wind was expected to be from 040 degrees at 12 knots with a visibility of 6 miles in light rain showers and mist and a broken ceiling at 2,000 feet agl. About 2207, the National Weather Service issued an amended TAF that expected instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions to prevail during the period with a broken ceiling at 700 feet agl
Probable Cause: The pilot’s decision to continue the visual flight rules flight into an area of instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and a loss of control of the helicopter. Contributing to the accident was the inadequate oversight of the flight by Omniflight’s Operational Control Center.

Sources:

NTSB: https://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief.aspx?ev_id=20090926X65328&key=1
FAA register: 2. FAA: http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?omni=Home-N-Number&nNumberTxt=417AE

Accident investigation:
cover
  
Investigating agency: 
Status: Investigation completed
Duration:
Download report: Final report

AS 350B2 N417AE at Abilene Regional Airport (ABI/KABI) Texas, USA, November 29, 2003

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
26-Sep-2009 07:02 robbreid Added
26-Sep-2009 08:59 Anon. Updated
26-Sep-2009 09:59 robbreid Updated
26-Jul-2014 01:15 Dr. John Smith Updated
06-Sep-2014 10:05 Aerossurance Updated
21-Dec-2016 19:25 ASN Update Bot Updated
02-Dec-2017 16:16 ASN Update Bot Updated

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