Final Report: Overloading Blamed in Fatal Helicopter Crash

 - January 29, 2010, 6:38 AM

Hughes 369D, Price, Utah, July 19, 2008–The pilot’s inadequate preflight performance planning for the takeoff and the loading (which exceeded the lift performance capability of the helicopter) was the probable cause of the crash, which killed the pilot and two passengers. According to witnesses, the helicopter–operated by BBP Air under Part 91–took off from Carbon County Airport after refueling and was last seen descending slightly as it left the airport boundary. The helicopter was destroyed in the crash and resulting fire.

Witnesses told investigators that before the crash, the accident pilot expressed concern to another pilot who was flying members of the same group in another helicopter that it might be harder to take off from the airport’s ramp area than from the grass area they had just departed. Reports describe wind at the time of the accident as strong and out of the south. Based on records obtained by the NTSB, the estimated weight of the helicopter at the time of the accident was approximately 2,823 pounds, not including the luggage and camping gear that witnesses say was loaded in the right rear seat.

According to the manufacturer, using the calculated weight-and-balance information and the weather conditions at the time of the accident, the aircraft’s maximum operational gross weight would be 2,760 pounds, while its hover performance out-of-ground-effect weight under the described conditions would be 2,600 pounds.