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N270SH accident description

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Tail numberN270SH
Accident dateSeptember 20, 2003
Aircraft typeAerospatiale AS350BA
LocationGrand Canyon West, az
Near 35.985 N, -113.793333 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

The Safety Board's full report is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/publictn.htm. The Aircraft Accident Brief number is NTSB/AAB-07/03.

On September 20, 2003, about 1238 mountain standard time, an Aerospatiale AS350BA helicopter, N270SH, operated by Sundance Helicopters, Inc., crashed into a canyon wall while maneuvering through Descent Canyon, about 1.5 nautical miles east of Grand Canyon West Airport (1G4) in Arizona. The pilot and all six passengers on board were killed, and the helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The air tour sightseeing flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was operated under visual flight rules on a company flight plan. The helicopter was transporting passengers from a helipad at 1G4 (helipad elevation 4,775 feet mean sea level [msl]) near the upper rim of the Grand Canyon to a helipad designated "the Beach" (elevation 1,300 msl) located next to the Colorado River at the floor of the Grand Canyon.

The director of operations estimated that each flight from 1G4 to the Beach helipad lasted about 3.5 minutes. These flights were part of an advertised tour package in which Sundance pilots flew passengers through Descent Canyon, dropped them off at the Beach helipad for a scenic boat ride on the Colorado River, then picked them up at the Beach helipad later in the day for a return flight to 1G4 through another scenic canyon.

The accident flight was the pilot's 11th flight through Descent Canyon that day. The helicopter lifted off from 1G4 about 1237 and flew to the rim of Descent Canyon. The Sundance tour coordinator and a loader for Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters at 1G4 stated that they observed the accident helicopter hover at the rim of Descent Canyon for about 30 to 45 seconds before beginning a level descent. There were no known witnesses or air traffic control radar data to provide information on the accident flight's progress inside the canyon after it descended out of view of the witnesses at 1G4.

The main wreckage was located on a canyon wall ledge about 400 feet beyond a near-vertical canyon wall that showed evidence of gouging consistent with a main rotor blade strike.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.