Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Saturday, October 04, 2014 in Wichita Falls, TX
Aircraft: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON 206L 1, registration: N335AE
Injuries: 2 Fatal,2 Serious.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.
On October 4, 2014, about 0155 central daylight time, N335AE, a Bell 206L1+, was destroyed by post-impact fire after it impacted terrain while on approach to the United Regional Hospital helipad, in Wichita Falls, Texas. The commercial pilot and the paramedic were seriously injured and the flight nurse and patient were killed. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Air Evac EMS, Inc, O'Fallon, Missouri. A company visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the patient transfer flight that departed Jackson County Hospital, near Waurika, Oklahoma, about 0133. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the air medical flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.
According to the pilot, he stated that he and his Duncan, Oklahoma, based medical crew had just returned from a flight to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, when he received a call from company dispatch to pick-up a patient in Waurika and transport him to United Regional Hospital in Wichita Falls. The pilot accepted the flight, but told dispatch that they needed 15 minutes on the ground to prepare for the flight since they had just landed.
The pilot said that he, along with the paramedic and flight nurse, re-boarded the helicopter, performed the necessary checklists, called dispatch and filed a flight plan. The flight to Waurika was uneventful. After landing, the pilot stayed in the helicopter for about 20 minutes with the engine running while the patient was prepped and loaded. The pilot and medical crew then departed for Wichita Falls. The weather was clear and the wind was three knots or less. Upon arriving in Wichita Falls, the pilot said he performed a "high recon" of United Regional Hospital's helipad and called out his intentions to land. He performed the pre-landing checklists, and started the approach to the helipad from the northwest at an altitude of 700 feet above ground level (agl). Both of the hospital's lighted windsocks were "limp" but were positioned so they were pointing toward the northwest. The pilot, who had landed at this helipad on numerous occasions, said the approach was normal until he got closer to the helipad. He said he felt fast "about 12-15 knots" and a "little high," so he decided to abort the approach. At this point, with about ¼ to ½ -inch of left anti-torque pedal applied, he added power, "tipped the nose over to get airspeed," and "pulled collective." The pilot said that as soon as he brought the collective up, the helicopter entered a rapid right turn. He described the turn as "violent" and that it was the fastest he had ever "spun" in a helicopter. The pilot told the crew to hold on and that he was "going to try and fly out of it." The pilot said he tried hard to get control of the helicopter by applying cyclic and initially "some" left anti-torque pedal "but nothing happened." The pilot said he added more, but not full left anti-torque pedal as the helicopter continued to spin and he was still unable to regain control. He also said the engine had plenty of power and was operating fine. The pilot recalled the helicopter spinning at least five times before impacting the ground. The pilot said the helicopter landed inverted and quickly filled up with smoke. He unbuckled his seatbelt assembly, took off his helmet, punched out the windshield and exited the burning helicopter.
The pilot also said that he did not hear any unusual noises prior to the "tail coming out from underneath them" and did not recall hearing any warning horns or seeing any warning/caution lights. When asked what he thought caused the helicopter to spin to the right so quickly, he replied, "I don't know."
The helicopter was equipped with tracking software that recorded its position every 60 seconds. A preliminary review of the track data revealed that after the helicopter departed Waurika, it flew on a south westerly heading until it crossed Highway 447 in Wichita Falls. It then flew on a westerly heading until it reached Highway 287, where it then turned on a north westerly heading. As it flew to the northwest, the helicopter flew past United Regional Hospital to the east before it made a 180 degree turn about 1 to 1.5 miles north of the hospital. The helicopter then proceeded directly to the helipad on a south easterly heading before the data stopped at 0154, about .2 miles north west of the helipad. At that time, the helicopter was about 212 feet above ground level (agl), on a heading of 138 degrees at a ground speed of 11 knots.
A portion of the accident flight and impact were captured on one of the hospital's surveillance cameras. A preliminary review of the surveillance tape revealed the helicopter approached the helipad from the north with the spotlight turned on (The pilot did state in his interview that he was using the spotlight during the approach). The helicopter then climbed and went out of frame before it reappeared in a descending right hand turn before it impacted the ground. The time of impact was recorded at 0154:56. About 6 seconds later, a large explosion occurred where the helicopter impacted the ground.
An on-scene examination of the helicopter was conducted on October 4-5, 2014, under the supervision of the National Transportation Safety Board Investigator-in-Charge (NTSB IIC). The helicopter collided with power lines and came to rest inverted between two trees that lined a public sidewalk about one block northeast of the helipad. All major components of the helicopter were located at the main impact site. A post-impact fire consumed the main fuselage and portion of the tail boom. The tail rotor assembly and vertical fin exhibited minor fire and impact damage.