The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report regarding the crash of a tourist helicopter earlier this month near South Point on the Big Island.
Six people were on board the Paradise Helicopters Bell 407 helicopter, operated by K&S Helicopters, when it crashed just before 5.30pm on June 8 in an open lava field between Ranchos Subdivision and South Point Road.
“The pilot and two passengers were seriously injured and three passengers were slightly injured,” the NTSB’s initial report said.
NTSB Preliminary Report on South Point Helicopter Crash by Tiffany De Masters on Scribd
Investigators from the NTSB Regional Office in Alaska, as well as an NTSB Airworthiness Investigator, Survivability Investigator, and Maintenance Investigator in Washington, D.C., traveled to the Big Island to examine the site. of the accident.
According to the report, the helicopter left the Paradise Helicopters base at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at 5:01 p.m. that day, heading south for an aerial tour around the island. The pilot reported that the first part of the flight was normal, but about 30 minutes later the helicopter experienced “rollover violence, followed by an uncontrollable spin (yaw) to the right”.
A female passenger reported that as the helicopter continued to circle, she saw something fall from the plane but could not identify a specific part. The data showed a rapid descent and a decrease in speed at the end of the flight path, consistent with statements by the occupants.
“The helicopter continued to spin uncontrollably during its descent, and then struck an area of rough, rugged, lava-covered terrain and came to rest on its left side,” the NTSB preliminary report said. “After impact, an emergency call was made by a passenger to report that the helicopter had crashed.”
Examination of the crash site by investigators revealed that the tail boom of the helicopter had come to rest nearly 800 feet from the main wreckage. The tail boom separated from the aircraft fuselage at the tail boom attachment point.
According to the preliminary report, the upper left attachment fitting was not present and the lower left attachment fitting was fractured and exhibiting signs of fatigue. Clips for the lower left, lower right and upper right attachment fittings were present.
A review of the tour helicopter’s maintenance records revealed that the most recent tail boom fastener torque check was performed on 04 May. At the time of the accident, the helicopter had accumulated approximately 114 hours of flight time since that May torque check and no further maintenance had been performed. led the location of the attachment, the report says.
The tail boom was installed on August 23, 2009 on the helicopter and had not been removed before the accident.
“Portions of the tail boom structure, aft fuselage structure, attachment fittings, and fasteners were retained for further examination by the NTSB Materials Laboratory,” the report said.
The report is only preliminary. A final NTSB report will be released at a later date.
A statement from K&S Helicopters, provided by Paradise Helicopters President Calvin Dorn via email, says the company is cooperating with the tour helicopter pilot, the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration and Bell as part of the accident investigation.
The company has also voluntarily grounded all of its Bell 407 aircraft for the time being.
“K&S Helicopters is working closely with the pilot, the NTSB, the FAA and Bell to support a thorough investigation of the June 8 crash on the island of Hawai’i,” K&S said in the statement. “All Bell 407 aircraft operated by K&S Helicopters have been voluntarily grounded out of an abundance of caution until further safety decisions can be made. The company is reviewing the NTSB’s preliminary findings, and we will continue to work with investigators as they complete a final report.
NTSB Media Relations Jennifer Gabris told Big Island Now via email Friday, June 24 that final reports take between 12 and 24 months.