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A preliminary report of a tour helicopter crash in Hawaii revealed that the helicopter suffered a “violent upheaval”, before spinning uncontrollably downward and crashing into a remote lava field.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB’s preliminary aviation accident report details how a representative for the operator, Paradise Helicopters, told investigators that the helicopter – a Bell 407 helicopter, N402SH – took off at around 5:01 p.m. local time from the company’s base at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in Keahole. (PHKO), Kona, Hawaii, and headed south for an air flight around the island.
The helicopter traveled southeast at approximately 500-600 feet above ground level and between airspeeds of 122 and 127 knots, according to broadcast automatic dependent surveillance and company flight path data.
HAWAII TOUR HELICOPTER CRASHES IN LAVA FIELD WITH 6 ON BOARD
The pilot reports that the first part of the flight went normally.
About 30 minutes into the flight, the helicopter “experienced a violent jerk, followed by an uncontrolled spin (yaw) to the right,” according to the NTSB.
A female passenger, seated in the left rear forward-facing seat, reported that as the helicopter continued to spin, she saw something fall from the helicopter; however, she was unable to identify a specific part.
Flight path data showed a rapid descent and decrease in airspeed at the end of the flight path, consistent with statements from the occupants, according to the NTSB.
The helicopter continued to spin uncontrollably during its descent, then struck an area of rough, uneven, lava-covered terrain and came to rest on its left side.
After the impact, a passenger managed to place the emergency call to report the accident.
The helicopter broke into large pieces hundreds of feet apart when it hit the ground.
“An NTSB examination of the crash site revealed that the tail boom had come to rest approximately 762 feet northeast of the main wreckage, which included the fuselage, engine and main rotor system. “, says the report. “The tail boom separated from the fuselage at the tail boom attachment point.”
“The left upper fixation fixture was not present and the left lower fixation fixture was fractured and exhibited signs of fatigue,” the report continues. “The fasteners for the lower left, lower right and upper right attachment fittings were present.”
Helicopter maintenance records revealed that the most recent tail boom fastener torque check was performed on May 4, 2022, after a total flight time of 22,891.4 hours.
At the time of the accident, the helicopter had accumulated 23,005.6 flight hours — 114.2 flight hours since the torque check — and no further maintenance had been performed at this mounting location.
The tail boom was installed on August 23, 2009, at a total airframe time of 5,780.0 hours and had not been removed before the accident, according to the NTSB.
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Portions of the tail boom structure, aft fuselage structure, attachment fittings, and fasteners were retained for further examination by the NTSB Materials Laboratory.
An investigator from the Alaska Regional Office of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with an NTSB Airworthiness Investigator, an NTSB Survival Factors Investigator, and an NTSB Maintenance Investigator from Washington, D.C., responded. to the island of Hawaii.