Accidents final reports: Dust and glare caused pilot misjudgment
Eurocopter AS 350B2, Cave Creek, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2009–The probable cause of the damaging landing of the AS 350, registered to and operated by PHI, was the pilot’s misjudged landing flare, according to the NTSB. Contributing factors were a dust-cloud brownout created by the medevac helicopter’s rotor downwash and glare from parked emergency vehicle headlights that interfered with the pilot’s night vision goggles; both phenomena affected the pilot’s perception of proximity to the ground.
The helicopter sustained structural damage to its tail boom and fuselage after a hard landing during a night-time mission to transport a traffic-accident patient. After being directed to a landing area in a dirt parking lot, the pilot asked first responders if the area had been wetted down. It hadn’t, he was told, but “looked damp.” As the pilot descended, his vision became obscured by the dust cloud. He then reduced power in an attempt to land quickly and minimize the dust volume. The commercial pilot and two medical crewmembers on board were not injured in the landing.