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N456JP accident description

Michigan map... Michigan list
Crash location 42.807500°N, 83.773611°W
Nearest city Fenton, MI
42.797806°N, 83.704950°W
3.5 miles away
Tail number N456JP
Accident date 18 Oct 2003
Aircraft type Schweizer 269C
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On October 18, 2003, about 1230 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer 269C helicopter, N456JP, collided with the water while maneuvering over Lake Copneconic, in Fenton, Michigan. The private rated helicopter pilot was fatally injured and the passenger sustained serious injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The flight originally departed from the Dalton Airport (3DA) in Flushing, Michigan, around 1130 and made a short stop at Price's Airport (9G2), Linden, Michigan, before the accident.

The passenger stated that the pilot wanted to fly over Lake Copneconic so he could point out his house. The passenger reported that the pilot performed low level maneuvers including steep banks below tree top level. The passenger stated that he had a headache from the maneuvering. About the time the passenger was going to inform the pilot of his headache, the pilot leveled the helicopter. The passenger reported that he thought the pilot was going to depart the area, but the helicopter began to lose altitude. The pilot asked the passenger if he wanted to touch the water. The passenger stated that he replied, "I don't think so." According to the passenger, shortly thereafter the skids of the helicopter contacted the water and the helicopter sank instantaneously into the lake, canopy first.

The passenger reported that he freed himself from the seatbelt and believes he exited the helicopter before it contacted the bottom of the lake. The passenger stated that he began to swim to the shore when he surfaced. The passenger stated that he looked back and saw the pilot come up to the surface gasping for air. The passenger swam further toward the shore and when he turned around for the second time he could not see the pilot.

A witness stated that he was on the east side of the lake when he saw the helicopter "zip" across the lake from the west to the east. The witness reported that the helicopter then made a right turn and started coming back across the lake when it impacted the water. The witness stated that the altitude of the helicopter was "pretty low."


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rotorcraft rating which was issued on November 10, 2001. The pilot was issued a second class medical on June 6, 2003, with "Must wear corrective lenses" printed in the limitations section. The pilot's logbook indicated that he had a total flight time of approximately 322 hours. The pilot accumulated approximately 267 hours in the same make and model as the accident helicopter.


The accident aircraft was a Schweizer 296C, serial number 1564, helicopter. It had seating capacity for three people. The accident helicopter was powered by a Lycoming HIO-360 series engine rated at 190 horsepower, powering three metal rotor blades.

The accident helicopter was manufactured and granted its airworthiness certificate in 1991.

The last inspection of the helicopter was a 100-hour inspection on December 18, 2002. The helicopter had an oil change on September 9, 2003, at which time the aircraft total time was listed as 377.9 hours.


The recorded weather at Bishop International Airport (FNT), Flint, Michigan, located approximately 12 nautical miles north/northwest from the accident site reported the weather at 1253 as:

Winds: 210 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 17 knots

Visibility: 10 statute miles

Ceiling: Overcast 5,500 feet above ground level

Temperature: 12 degrees Celsius

Dew Point: 1 degree Celsius

Altimeter: 29.98 inches of mercury


Around 1335 the accident aircraft was located on the east end of the lake approximately 100 yards from the shore. The aircraft was found resting in 3 feet of silt at a depth of 18 feet. The helicopter was found 600 feet southwest of the dock from where rescue operations were being held. Rescue and recovery personnel affixed airbags to the helicopter to raise it from the bottom of the lake. Once the helicopter surfaced, it was towed by boat to shore. The helicopter was brought on shore approximately at 2000. The helicopter was transferred to a secured hangar at Bishop International Airport around 2100.

An inspection of the helicopter revealed the canopy that surrounded the cabin was destroyed. The right door of the helicopter was open and remained attached to the helicopter, the left door was closed. The instrument panel was separated from its supporting structure and leaning toward the left front seat. The main rotor mast was bent aft and left. The main rotor blades had torsional bending along their entire span. One main rotor blade had leading edge damage. The tailboom and tailrotor assembly remained attached; however, the tailboom was bent forward toward the cabin. The left fuel tank was separated from its supporting structure. The engine and landing gear were intact.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Hurley Medical Center, Flint, Michigan, on October 20, 2003.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeromedical Institute prepared a Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report on the pilot. The report indicated negative results for all tests conducted.


The Federal Aviation Administration was a party to this investigation.

NTSB Probable Cause

The intentional low altitude flight maneuvering and the ostentatious display by the pilot. The water was a factor to the accident.

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