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N130WS accident description

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Crash location 20.866667°N, 156.316667°W
Nearest city Makawao, HI
20.856944°N, 156.313056°W
0.7 miles away
Tail number N130WS
Accident date 20 Apr 2007
Aircraft type Eurocopter EC 130 B4
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On April 20, 2007, approximately 1550 Hawaii standard time, a Eurocopter EC 130 B4 helicopter, N130WS, impacted the ground following a loss of control on takeoff at a private residence in Makawao, Hawaii. The helicopter, which was registered to and operated by Sunshine Helicopters, Inc. of Kahului, Hawaii, sustained substantial damage. The airline transport pilot was not injured, and the five passengers received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on demand air taxi flight. The flight was originating when the accident occurred and the intended destination was Kapalua, Hawaii.

The pilot reported that his helicopter was one of two helicopters dispatched empty from the company's base at Kahului to pick up passengers from a "confined area, remote site" on Baldwin Avenue in Makawao. The landing at the remote site was uneventful. Passengers were loaded into the other helicopter, and it departed without incident about 3 to 4 minutes prior to departure of the accident helicopter. The passengers were loaded into the helicopter, and the pilot briefed them prior to takeoff. The pilot stated that "he pulled in max allowable power to start takeoff, started forward movement with the cyclic, needing to clear the trees/wires on the takeoff. The aircraft stopped the climb at about 30 ft agl, above the trees, the nose started to turn left and I couldn't stop it with right pedal. The aircraft continued a turn left as we settled in the trees."

The pilot reported no mechanical discrepancies with the helicopter. He stated that "downwind takeoff was the reason for accident." He commented that the wind was "25 to 30 [knots] with gusts." The pilot stated that he had spoken to the operator's chief pilot the day before the accident "about the poor choice of performing this charter with high winds 25, gusting to 30." He further stated that on the morning of the accident he reiterated his concerns "about the required downwind takeoff at the remote site" to the company's operations manager.

According to the operator, "the downwind departure resulted in the helicopter settling with an uncontrolled nose rotation to the left when the main rotor blades contacted a tree and the helicopter landed hard." The operator further stated that "had the pilot performed a maximum performance confined area takeoff into the wind, as required in the Sunshine Helicopters Pilot Training Program and correctly performed during his last review conducted 04/04/07, the helicopter would have achieved effective translational lift to clear barriers without any incident or problems: according to performance data contained in the RFM [Rotorcraft Flight Manual]."

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors examined the helicopter at the accident site and reported that the helicopter's nose section was crushed upward, the landing skids were separated, the tail boom was separated, the main rotor blades were twisted, and the engine was displaced from its mounting structure.

At 1554, the reported weather conditions at Kahului Airport, Kahului, Hawaii, located about 4 nautical miles west of the accident site, were winds from 050 degrees true at 19 knots gusting to 29 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky condition a few clouds at 9,000 feet, temperature 27 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 17 degrees C, and altimeter setting 30.03 inches.

The helicopter was equipped with an on-board video recording system, intended to provide customers with a video record of their flight. The digital memory card containing the recorded video from the accident flight was reviewed by a specialist with the NTSB vehicle recorder division. The recording was 07:23 (minutes:seconds) in length. It begins with an external view in front of the helicopter, which shows the helicopter situated in a grass field/lawn with trees surrounding the perimeter of the field. The helicopter is aligned with a straight driveway located to its right, which has a true heading of about 251 degrees. About 3 minutes into the recording, ground personnel can be seen assembling 5 passengers in front of the helicopter and then leading them toward the helicopter. As they walk toward the helicopter, it appears they are walking into the wind, as their clothing seems to be blown almost directly behind them.

About 03:40, the camera view switches to an internal rearward view of the helicopter cabin, and the ground personnel can be seen assisting the passengers with their seatbelts and headsets. In this view, shadows from the main rotor blades can be seen indicating the rotor system is turning. Through the rear door windows, foliage to the rear at the perimeter of the grass area is visible. The motion of this foliage suggests gusty wind conditions. Between 05:00 and 06:16, the pilot can be heard briefing the passenger's on emergency procedures. There are no further comments from the pilot after this time. The camera view switches back to the forward external view.

At 06:49, the helicopter lifts off the ground and immediately begins to ascend. The helicopter's path tracks nearly parallel to the driveway, towards the tree line at the end of the grass field. At 06:53, the helicopter's nose begins to turn to the left, however, it continues to track parallel to the driveway. The nose continues to turn left, and the track begins changing to the left as well. The helicopter impacts the trees in the southwest corner of the grass field at 07:00, eleven seconds after takeoff. The highest altitude reached was approximately level with the tallest trees in the southwest corner of the field. For further details concerning the recorded video refer to the On Board Video Recording Specialist's Study Report included in the public docket for this accident.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper decision to takeoff downwind in a confined landing zone, which resulted in a failure to attain translational lift and a loss of control.

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