Rash of recent fatal helicopter crashes

 - March 12, 2007, 9:41 AM

Bell 206 JetRanger, Bonifay, Fla., Feb. 5, 2005–The pilot of JetRanger N35BA was killed when the helicopter crashed soon after takeoff from Bonifay, 95 miles east of Pensacola. The accident pilot had flown the JetRanger, registered to Lakeland,Fla.-based Lance Aviation, the previous week for contract work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and was returning to base.

Bell JetRanger 206B, Somerset, UK, Jan. 23, 2005–The private helicopter took off from Gloucestershire Airport and was found in the woods in the Blackdown Hills. Four people were killed. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is conducting an inquiry.

Eurocopter Deutschland EC 135 P2, Oxon Hill, Md., Jan. 10, 2005–The Air Methods LifeNet flight crashed into the Potomac River, killing the commercial pilot and flight medic and seriously injuring the flight nurse. The helicopter left Washington Hospital Center and followed the Washington, D.C. Helicopter Routes Chart over the Potomac River at 200 feet toward the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac. The flight nurse noticed an airplane descending toward Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and wondered if there would be a conflict or a wake-turbulence hazard. As the helicopter approached the bridge, the pilot maneuvered to cross over the mid-span of the bridge. The flight nurse did not remember striking anything, “but my initial reaction was that we must have hit something.” No structural damage or obvious aircraft strike indications were found on the five construction cranes near the bridge, and the projected track of the helicopter was about 300 feet from the nearest crane. The helicopter came to rest in the Potomac River about 0.5 miles south of the bridge.

ATC radar data revealed that a CRJ 700 Canadair Regional Jet passed over the bridge about one minute, 45 seconds before the helicopter passed over the bridge, 900 feet directly beneath the flight path of the CRJ, while heading in the opposite direction.

Eurocopter AS 350-D, Falkner, Miss., Jan. 5, 2005–An Air Methods’ air ambulance positioning flight crashed into trees and the ground in the vicinity of Falkner while maneuvering in IMC. The helicopter was destroyed, and the commercial pilot was killed. Dispatched to an automobile accident site, the pilot reported he had a problem with a damaged chin bubble. After a company mechanic made a temporary repair, the pilot took off. A cold front had just passed through the area and the wind was strong and gusty with frequent downpours.

Eurocopter France AS 350BA, Panamint Spring, Calif., Dec. 30, 2004–Jetcopters’ AS 350 N410JC crashed on a mountainside while maneuvering during a low-altitude aerial photography contract flight. The helicopter was destroyed and the ATP pilot was seriously injured. The director of the automobile commercial, who reported the weather was excellent, was seriously injured, and the cameraman was killed.

Bell 407, Ship Shoal 130E, Gulf of Mexico, Dec. 17, 2004–Bell 407 N976AA, operated by Omni Energy Services, slid into the water after hitting an object while landing on an offshore oil platform in VMC. The commercial pilot and two passengers were seriously injured, and another passenger was killed and the Bell was destroyed. Wind was 22 knots gusting to 39 knots.