National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Final Report
Date & Time:
06/29/2014, 1730 MDT
Loss of control in flight
Flight Conducted Under:
Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled
The commercial pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to position the helicopter and its installed camera equipment to the staging area of an intended aerial videography project. He added that the prestart, run-up, and hover checks were uneventful. While proceeding to the staging area, he climbed the helicopter to between about 800 and 1,000 ft above ground level. Shortly thereafter, the pilot lost consciousness, and his next recollection was waking up in an intensive care unit. After the pilot lost consciousness, the front seat passenger attempted to control the helicopter using the cyclic; however, the helicopter eventually collided with terrain.
According to medical records regarding the pilot’s postaccident hospital treatment, the pilot suffered a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness (known as a syncopal episode) while he was operating the helicopter. Postaccident medical evaluation led to a diagnosis of sick sinus syndrome, a heart condition, which likely caused the pilot’s loss of consciousness and his subsequent inability to maintain helicopter control.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s sudden incapacitation from a previously undiagnosed medical condition while in cruise flight, which resulted in his inability to maintain helicopter control.
Performance/control parameters - Attain/maintain not possible (Cause)
Cardiovascular - Pilot (Cause)
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On June 29, 2014, about 1730 mountain daylight time, an Aerospatiale AS350B2, N350CR, collided with terrain near Dietrich, Idaho. Reeder Flying Service was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. The commercial pilot and two passengers sustained serious injuries. The helicopter sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence. The cross-country aerial photography flight departed Twin Falls, Idaho, about 1630, with a planned destination of Rexburg, Idaho. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
Witnesses reported that the helicopter was traveling in a northeasterly direction when they observed it make a sudden 180-degree reversal to the southwest, followed by a rapid tail-first descent into the ground.
The pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to position the helicopter and its installed camera equipment to a staging area of an intended aerial videography project. One passenger was in the front left seat to operate the camera, and the other was behind the pilot in the right rear outboard seat.
According to the pilot, prestart, run-up, and hover checks were uneventful. He flew to a scenic waterfall, and flew two orbits to test the camera equipment and its imaging. He then notified his maintenance department that he was preceding to the staging area. He climbed the helicopter to 800-1,000 ft agl; shortly thereafter the pilot lost consciousness. His next recollection was waking up in an intensive care unit at a hospital.
After the pilot lost consciousness, the front seat passenger attempted to control the helicopter using the cyclic; however, the helicopter eventually collided with terrain.
The 57-year-old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, helicopter, and instrument. The pilot held a flight instructor (CFI) certificate with ratings for helicopter and instrument helicopter.
The pilot held a second-class medical certificate issued on March 24, 2014, with no limitations or waivers.
The pilot reported that he had a total flight time of 7,405 hours with 2,683 hours in this make and model. He logged 88 hours in the previous 90 days, and 39 in the previous 30 days. He completed a flight review on April 10, 2014.
The helicopter was an Airbus Helicopters, Inc., AS350B2, serial number 2328. The operator reported that the helicopter had a total airframe time of 8,887 hours at the time of the accident. It had a 100-hour inspection on April 11, 2014.
The engine was a Honeywell LTS 101-700D-2, serial number LE-46019C. The pilot reported that the total time on the engine was 6,518 hours, and time since major overhaul was 904 hours.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board's medical officer reviewed the pilot's airman medical file, personal, and hospital medical records and prepared a factual report that is contained in the public docket for this accident.
In summary, the pilot had a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The pilot had gastroenteritis the night prior to the accident, and symptoms had reportedly been resolved following treatment with bismuth subsalicylate. The following morning, he reported that he felt that he was well enough to fly.
According to postaccident medical records from the pilot's hospital treatment, the pilot suffered a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness (known as a syncopal episode) while controlling the helicopter. Postaccident medical evaluation led to a diagnosis of sick sinus syndrome, a group of heart rhythm disorders that include slow heart rhythm (bradycardia) or periods when the heart pauses for an excessive interval sometimes accompanied by fatigue, confusion or syncope. The condition was treated with an implanted pacemaker the day following the accident.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Investigators from the NTSB, Airbus Helicopters, and Honeywell examined the wreckage at Air Transport, Phoenix, Arizona, on July 15, 2014. A complete report of the examination is in the public docket for this accident. The examination revealed no anomalies with the airframe or engine.
The pilot stated that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.
The passengers were filming the flight. A review of the video indicated that the pilot slumped forward in his seat; his body movements were limp and flaccid. The passenger in the front left seat appeared to reach his right hand in front of the pilot near the area of the cyclic. The passenger in the rear seat appeared to reach forward, and try to pull the pilot's upper torso toward the back of the seat. The helicopter then fell forward into the ground.
History of Flight
Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Flight Instructor; Commercial
Other Aircraft Rating(s):
Second Pilot Present:
Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
7405 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2682 hours (Total, this make and model), 7280 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 88 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 39 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)
Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
Year of Manufacture:
Landing Gear Type:
Date/Type of Last Inspection:
04/11/2014, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time:
8887 Hours at time of accident
Installed, not activated
REEDER FLYING SERVICE INC
REEDER FLYING SERVICE INC
Operating Certificate(s) Held:
On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Meteorological Information and Flight Plan
Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Distance from Accident Site:
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition:
19 knots / 26 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
30.04 inches Hg
27°C / 2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Twin Falls, ID (TWF)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Rexburg, ID (RXE)
Type of Clearance:
Type of Airspace:
Wreckage and Impact Information
42.900000, -114.250000 (est)
Investigator In Charge (IIC):
Howard D Plagens
Additional Participating Persons:
Rudy Rossi; FAA FSDO; Boise, ID
Jay Eller; Honeywell; Phoenix, AZ
The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident.