The pilot of a Papillon Airways air-tour Airbus AS350B3 was killed May 18 at a helistop at the bottom of the Grand Canyon after exiting the helicopter for a fluid check while leaving the engine running and the blades turning, according to an NTSB preliminary report issued on Tuesday. Witnesses said the empty helicopter then became airborne, hit the ground and rolled over. Its rotor blades struck and killed the pilot.
The accident occurred at the Ramada landing site at the bottom of the Grand Canyon near Grand Canyon West Airport (1G4) in Peach Springs, Ariz., near the west shore of the Colorado River. The helicopter was on a Part 91 repositioning flight.
The accident helicopter was equipped with an Appareo Vision 1000 cockpit imaging and flight data monitoring device. It was undamaged and shipped to the NTSB in Washington, D.C., for data extraction. The pilot held commercial and CFI ratings. The helicopter was examined on site by the investigation team, which found no abnormalities with the helicopter airframe or engine systems.