High Density Altitude Helped Bring Down Helicopter
The pilot’s decision to rapidly maneuver the helicopter at a high density altitude near steeply sloping terrain was the cause of a fatal air-tour helicopter crash on Aug. 10, 2001, according to the NTSB’s final report. The pilot and five passengers were killed and one passenger was seriously injured when the Papillon Airways AS 350 hit terrain during an uncontrolled descent near Meadview, Ariz. After crossing a plateau at 5,400 feet msl (100 feet agl), a descent to 4,500 feet msl was routinely required for traffic avoidance. Interviews with people familiar with the way the accident pilot flew his tour indicated that he preferred to cross the cliff edge at low altitude and high speed, and then enter a rapid descent, nosing the helicopter over into a dive. The temperature in the area at the time of the accident was more than 100 degrees F.