Accidents: Final Report - PILOT ERROR, WEATHER DOWNED HELICOPTER

 - December 1, 2010, 8:13 AM

Bell 206-L4, Sabine Pass, Texas, Dec. 11, 2008–The LongRanger crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, killing the pilot and four passengers, as a result of the commercial pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from the water, according to the NTSB. A contributing factor was the Part 135 flight’s inadvertent encounter with IMC conditions.

The helicopter, owned and operated by Rotorcraft Leasing, was en route to an offshore oil platform when the pilot failed to make a routine position report. The helicopter’s wreckage was located two miles offshore in 15 feet of water. A cold front had passed through the area several hours before the accident, and according to the operator, other flights in the area had been grounded or delayed by the passing weather. At the time of the accident, the operator did not have a formal risk-assessment program, with the pilot responsible for checking the weather conditions and making the decision whether or not to fly. There was no evidence that the pilot had obtained a formal weather briefing from a recorded source.

The air temperature at the time of the accident was 34 degrees F and the water temperature was 64 degrees F. Airmets for IMC, turbulence and icing were issued for the accident area, with visibility restricted due to mist and possible light snow. An examination of the wreckage revealed no anomalies, while the damage was consistent with controlled flight into water.