Bell 206L-3 LongRanger, Whiteriver, Ariz., July 26, 2003–The NTSB found that the crash of the LongRanger firefighting ferry flight was the result of the commercial pilot’s failure to maintain a minimum translational lift airspeed while maneuvering in high density-altitude conditions (calculated to be 11,968 feet) at near maximum required torque and above the in-ground-effect hover altitude. The result was a loss of tail-rotor effectiveness and a loss of control. The pilot’s failure to note and account for the power requirements necessary for takeoff and the slow maneuvering were factors.
A survivor who was sitting in the left seat at the time of the accident told investigators that the helicopter was dropping off firefighters at a wildfire. As the LongRanger approached the landing zone, the passenger noted that the torque gauge read 100 percent. As the pilot turned right toward the landing zone, the torque reading went from 100 to 110 percent. The passenger asked the pilot if the tail rotor was going to stall, but received no response. He said the airspeed gauge read zero. The pilot started to move the collective, cyclic and “his feet.” The helicopter then spun two times to the right and hit trees. Two people were killed in the accident.