Final Report: EMS helicopter crashed in fog

 - December 7, 2007, 6:57 AM

Bell 407, Newberry, S.C., July 13, 2004–The NTSB blamed the EMS helicopter accident on the pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance as a result of fog conditions. A contributing factor was inadequate weather and dispatch information relayed to him.

At night, in mist and light fog, the Med-Trans Bell 407 EMS helicopter was destroyed when it crashed into trees after taking off from an accident site with an injured motorist. The commercial pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic and patient were killed.

The pilot had 2,133 total flight hours, all in helicopters, and about 104 hours in the 407. He had logged 48 hours of simulated instrument flight, with .9 hour of that in a
Bell 407, but there was no record of flight in actual instrument conditions.

Three other EMS helicopter operators had turned down the mission; one had attempted it but had to return because of fog. However, the accident pilot was not told that other pilots had declined the mission because of fog.

According to a witness, the helicopter made no abrupt maneuvers and the engine “didn’t sound like it was missing, sputtering, or [experiencing] any other kind of power loss.” He said the helicopter was straight and level then “pitched forward to go forward.” It was “flying level” as it descended into the trees.

Inspectors found no pre-existing anomalies, and engine data showed it was operating at 98 percent Ng when it hit the trees.|