Helicopter mountain rescue operations are among the most demanding flying there is. Pilots are challenged by pushing the performance envelope of their machines in notoriously unpredictable weather, and when the mission is rescue, they face another layer of difficulty, driven by the desire not only to survive their mission, but to save lives too.
RAYTHEON KING AIR E90, RENO, NEV., MARCH 13, 2002–The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was the pilot’s inadequate approach airspeed for the existing adverse meteorological conditions, followed by his delayed action to avert stalling and subsequent loss of control of the airplane. Contributing factors were reduced visibility due to the inclement weather and icing conditions.
A little known FAA policy statement, dated June 1 of this year, stands to dramatically change the helicopter industry as we know it. Helicopter pilots and manufacturers have long known the unique capabilities of rotorcraft, but have always been obligated to follow regulations and policies set forth and to operate in airspace designed for the much more prevalent fixed-wing aircraft.
ROCKWELL COMMANDER 690A, BISHOP, CALIF., AUG.
Mitsubishi MU-2B-35, Argyle, Fla., Sept. 1, 2006 – The NTSB determined the probable cause of the MU-2 accident to be the pilot’s inadvertent flight into thunderstorm activity that resulted in the loss of control, design limits of the airplane being exceeded and subsequent in-flight breakup.
Eurocopter AS 350-B2, Meadview, Ariz., Aug.
The pilot’s decision to rapidly maneuver the helicopter at a high density altitude near steeply sloping terrain was the cause of a fatal air-tour helicopter crash on Aug. 10, 2001, according to the NTSB’s final report. The pilot and five passengers were killed and one passenger was seriously injured when the Papillon Airways AS 350 hit terrain during an uncontrolled descent near Meadview, Ariz.
EUROCOPTER EC 120B, JONESBORO, GA., JAN. 24, 2004–At 4:50 p.m. Eurocopter N125MG hit the ground during a practice autorotation at the Hampton/Clayton County/Tara Airport (4A7) near Jonesboro. The VFR instructional flight was operated under Part 91 and no flight plan was filed for the local flight.
PIPER PA-46-310P MALIBU, OSTENN, FLA., JUNE 14, 2002–Trying to thread through a hole in an area of thunderstorms on an IFR flight from Raleigh, N.C. to Marco Island, Fla., the pilot of Malibu N9143B asked ATC for a deviation 12 miles to the west. He attempted to fly through an area of light radar echoes between the two large areas of heavier echoes.
CESSNA 425 CONQUEST I, SAN JOSE, CALIF., MARCH 6, 2002–The NTSB concluded that the in-flight breakup of Conquest N444JV was caused “by the pilot’s loss of control, which resulted in exceeding of the design stress limits of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight structural failure.” The loss of control was blamed on the loss of primary airspeed reference resulting from pitot tube icing, caused by the internal failure of the pitot heat switch.