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N606SP accident description

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Tail numberN606SP
Accident dateJune 09, 2009
Aircraft typeAgusta Spa A109E
LocationSanta Fe, NM
Near 35.8375 N, -105.740555 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On June 9, 2009, about 2135 mountain daylight time, an Agusta Spa A-109E helicopter, N606SP, was destroyed after impacting terrain following inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The commercial pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. A second passenger, the spotter, was seriously injured. The public use flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. The local flight originated at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF), Santa Fe, New Mexico. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

The helicopter, N606SP, was owned by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and operated by the New Mexico State Police. The commercial pilot and a highway patrolman, acting as a spotter, were conducting a search and rescue mission. They were searching for a lone hiker who was lost near Santa Fe Baldy Mountain in the Pecos Wilderness Area, northeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The spotter stated they located the hiker just before dark and landed in an open area near her. The pilot shut down the helicopter and went into the forest to bring her back to the helicopter. While the pilot was gone the weather deteriorated and it started sleeting. When the pilot returned he was carrying the hiker on his back. The spotter strapped the passenger in the right, rear, forward facing passenger seat and he was seated in the left, rear, forward facing passenger seat. The pilot pointed out a "valley in the clouds" and took off towards it. After becoming airborne the clouds closed in around the helicopter. Sometime later the pilot pulled the helicopter up abruptly and the spotter felt the helicopter hit something, shutter and start running roughly. Based on recorded radio transmissions, where the pilot reported "we hit a mountain," the helicopter continued to fly for at least one minute before impacting a steep ridgeline in a "controlled, but hard landing." The helicopter rolled approximately 800 feet down a steep and rock covered hillside before stopping. The pilot and passenger had been ejected during the descent.

Witnesses staying at nearby Stewart Lake observed the helicopter flying in the area, land, and then takeoff about a mile away. After takeoff, they saw the helicopter fly to the south and then turn to the north. They thought the helicopter was northbound on the west side of Santa Fe Baldy Mountain when they heard a change in the pitch of the rotor blades and saw the lights of the helicopter descending until it went out of sight behind a ridgeline. They then saw a flash of light from behind the ridge and heard a sound like an explosion. They described the weather as strong, gusty winds, and heavy rain started at their camp around 2200.

Examination of the helicopter wreckage showed the tail boom and rotors had separated from the fuselage. The cockpit was fragmented and the rotor mast and transmission were pushed into the fuselage.

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