Accident AgustaWestland AW139 N32CC, Thursday 4 July 2019
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Date:Thursday 4 July 2019
Type:Silhouette image of generic A139 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
AgustaWestland AW139
Owner/operator:Challenger Management LLC
Registration: N32CC
MSN: 31112
Year of manufacture:2007
Total airframe hrs:2158 hours
Engine model:Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C
Fatalities:Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 7
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Atlantic Ocean, 1.2 mls off Big Grand Cay Island, Abaco -   Bahamas
Phase: Initial climb
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:Big Grand Cay
Destination airport:Fort Lauderdale International Airport, FL (FLL/KFLL)
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
The helicopter impacted the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Grand Cay Island in the Bahamas. The seven occupants were fatally injured. The aircraft was reported missing at 14:53.

The AAID Bahamas report that the helicopter involved was N32CC, an AW139 (ex C-FPSE). FAA reported the helicopter was on initial climb and operating as a personal flight. An IFR flight plan was filed.

On board the helicopter were two pilots, coal billionaire Chris Cline, his daughter, and three of her friends. The aircraft had arrived from the US shortly before in response to a medical emergency.

The wreckage was recovered on 6 July 2019 and was taken to Florida for examination.

- NTSB Preliminary:

On July 4, 2019, about 0154 eastern daylight time, an Agusta AW139, N32CC, owned and operated by Challenger Management LLC, was substantially damaged when it impacted the Atlantic Ocean near Big Grand Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. The commercial pilot, airline transport pilot rated copilot, and five passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was being operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for a flight from Walker's Cay Airport (MYAW), Walker's Cay, Bahamas, to Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The flight departed from a concrete pad at Big Grand Cay, which was located about 5 nautical miles (nm) southeast from MYAW, about 1 minute prior to the accident.

The purpose of the accident flight was to transport two of the passengers to FLL for medical treatment.

The helicopter departed from Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), West Palm Beach, Florida, about 0057, and a witness reported that it landed on the concrete pad at Big Grand Cay between 0130 and 0145. After landing, the helicopter remained on the ground with the engines operating, while the passengers boarded. During the subsequent takeoff to the east, the witness reported that the helicopter climbed to about 30 to 40 ft and accelerated while in a nose-down attitude. He did not notice anything unusual while he observed the helicopter depart.

Another witness, who was located about 1.6 nm southwest of the accident site reported seeing the helicopter lift off and climb to between 40 and 50 ft above ground level; then shortly thereafter, he noted blue and white lights spinning to the left at a rate of about 1 to 2 seconds between rotations while descending. He estimated that the helicopter rotated to the left three to four times. He then heard a "whoosh whoosh whoosh" sound, and lost sight of the helicopter, which was followed by the sound of an impact. The witness reported what he had heard to the "caregiver" of Big Grand Cay. The witness went out on his boat about 0205 and used spotlights to search the area where he thought the helicopter had crashed but was unable to locate it.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert notice for the overdue flight about 1521. The helicopter was subsequently located by local residents sometime between 1600 and 1700, in about 16 ft of water about 1.2 nm north-northeast of the departure point.

The helicopter was found inverted and the tailboom was separated from the aft fuselage and was recovered in multiple pieces. All five main rotor blades were separated but recovered. The tail rotor assembly, which was also separated was subsequently recovered. All four tail rotor blades were separated, and one tail rotor blade was not recovered. The recovered wreckage was retained for further examination, to include examination of the airframe, engines, flight controls, seats and restraints.

The helicopter was equipped with a multi-purpose flight recorder, an enhanced ground proximity warning system and several additional components capable of storing non-volatile memory, which were retained for evaluation and data download.

The accident investigation was initially under the jurisdiction of the Air Accident Investigation Department (AAID) of the Bahamas. On July 6, 2019, in accordance with Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the AAID requested delegation of the accident investigation to the NTSB, which the NTSB accepted on July 8, 2019.

Probable Cause and Findings:
The pilots’ decision to takeoff over water in dark night conditions with no external visual reference, which resulted in spatial disorientation and subsequent collision with the water. Also causal was the pilots’ failure to adequately monitor their instruments and respond to multiple EGPWS warnings to
arrest the helicopter’s descent. Contributing to the pilots’ decision was external pressure to complete the flight. Contributing to the accident was the pilots’ lack of night flying experience from the island and
their inadequate crew resource management.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: ERA19FA210
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 10 months
Download report: Final report




Revision history:

05-Jul-2019 05:00 Geno Added
05-Jul-2019 06:06 Aerossurance Updated [Phase, Nature, Embed code, Damage, Narrative]
05-Jul-2019 08:50 harro Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Source, Embed code]
05-Jul-2019 09:23 harro Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Narrative]
05-Jul-2019 09:34 harro Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Source, Narrative]
05-Jul-2019 09:46 A.J.Scholten Updated [Cn, Source]
05-Jul-2019 10:32 RobertMB Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
05-Jul-2019 11:40 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Embed code, Narrative]
05-Jul-2019 13:30 Geno Updated [Time, Source, Embed code]
05-Jul-2019 13:50 Aerossurance Updated [Time, Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
05-Jul-2019 23:20 Captain Adam Updated [Location, Embed code, Narrative]
05-Jul-2019 23:47 Captain Adam Updated [Phase, Source, Narrative]
06-Jul-2019 07:23 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Embed code]
06-Jul-2019 07:27 Aerossurance Updated [Time, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
07-Jul-2019 10:33 Aerossurance Updated [Narrative]
07-Jul-2019 17:08 Aerossurance Updated [Embed code, Narrative]
08-Jul-2019 09:07 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Embed code, Narrative]
08-Jul-2019 14:23 Aerossurance Updated [Source]
08-Jul-2019 17:08 Anon. Updated [Narrative]
24-Jul-2019 20:32 Aerossurance Updated [Time, Location, Source, Narrative]
25-Jul-2019 05:49 harro Updated [Destination airport]
27-Jul-2019 23:45 Captain Adam Updated [Source, Narrative]
23-Aug-2020 14:19 Aerossurance Updated [Location, Source, Embed code]
29-May-2023 16:47 harro Updated

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