Preliminary Report: Routine flight ends in loss of control

 - July 6, 2007, 5:27 AM

Eurocopter AS 350B3, San Elizario, Texas, May 22, 2007–The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air Operations AS 350 was destroyed when it crashed after a loss of control while maneuvering on a routine border patrol mission. The crash site was about 15 miles southeast of El Paso International Airport. The commercial pilot was killed and his observer was seriously injured. Operated under a company VFR flight plan, the flight had taken off from El Paso International Airport 1.8 hours before the accident.

Witnesses said that the helicopter “appeared to dip nose down and enter a spin
to the right nearly straight down.” According to one witness, the helicopter seemed to have recovered from the spin and started a climb before it began to spin to the right again and hit the ground in a nearly vertical attitude. Other witnesses added that the engine appeared to be “screaming.” A helicopter mechanic who witnessed the accident said the engine was screaming, but the rotor system sounded as though it was slowing down.