Final Report: Sightseeing helo tangled with power lines

 - January 31, 2007, 10:50 AM

Bell 206B JetRanger, Cushing, Okla., June 26, 2004–The chartered JetRanger was giving sightseeing rides at 8:45 p.m. (three minutes after sunset) when it hit unmarked power lines running 30 to 40 feet above the river. The helicopter crashed into the water, 90 percent submerged. The pilot and a passenger were killed; three passengers escaped with serious injuries. A witness reported that before the accident the helicopter was “flying recklessly.” One of the surviving passengers reported, “Once we arrived [at the river], he descended to within a few feet over the riverbed and then flew up into the power lines.” Examination showed that the power lines hit the helicopter’s upper wire cutter, main rotor mast and main rotor blade pitch links.

The NTSB blamed the accident on the pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning/decision and his failure to maintain obstacle clearance. Contributing factors were low-altitude flight, sun glare and the static wires.