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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN17FA100
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Monday, February 06, 2017 in Galveston, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/11/2017
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N978RH
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The non-scheduled passenger helicopter flight departed from an oil tanker ship that was anchored in a bay. The pilot reported that the departure had been delayed, but, when the helicopter did depart, the weather was "good." He said he had more than 6 miles visibility, that and he could see the moon above and the water below, and that his en route altitude was between 700 and 800 feet. He added that as the flight approached the shore at 500 feet, he could see the city lights and lights off the water. The next thing he remembered was being in the water. He and the two passengers were subsequently found by the US Coast Guard about 1hour later. The nearest weather observation station, located 8 miles east of the accident site, reported an overcast ceiling of 400 feet and 5 miles visibility in mist about 17 minutes before the accident. TAFs and AIRMETs issued about 1.5 hours and 1 hour before the accident, respectively, forecast instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). Postaccident examination of the helicopter wreckage was consistent with a relatively level impact, and no pre-impact mechanical anomalies were noted that would have precluded normal operation. It is likely that the flight encountered IMC at night and that the pilot did not properly gauge the distance of the helicopter from the water, which led to its collision with the water.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's failure to recognize the flight had encountered instrument meteorological conditions at night, which resulted in an unrecognized descent and collision with water.