Accident Bell 206B JetRanger N59518, Sunday 10 February 2013
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Date:Sunday 10 February 2013
Type:Silhouette image of generic B06 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Bell 206B JetRanger
Owner/operator:Orbic Air
Registration: N59518
MSN: 1322
Year of manufacture:1974
Total airframe hrs:6282 hours
Engine model:Rolls Royce Allison 250CB
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Polsa Rosa Ranch, Acton, CA -   United States of America
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:Acton, CA
Destination airport:Acton, CA
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
The pilot was hired to fly the helicopter for the production of a reality television show. The tentative plan scripted for the production shoot called for an actor to drop a backpack to the ground while the helicopter was in a hover to enable the cameras to film the airborne actor, the backpack receiver on the ground, and the helicopter executing the mission. Two shots were needed of the backpack being dropped, and they were to be done by two different actors at two separate locations at a movie ranch; the accident occurred during the filming of the second shot.

Recovered audio and video recordings from inside the helicopter revealed that the first bag-drop flight occurred around 2100, lasted about an hour, and consisted of four actual bag drops. During the first flight, the pilot made numerous comments about not being able to see the drop zone due to the dark night conditions and had the actor guide him with verbalized visual cues to ensure that the helicopter remained clear of trees. Several of the pilot's comments indicate that he was trying to be amenable to the production company's requests, and, although he did not directly communicate that he could not comply with some of them, he repeatedly remarked on the limited visibility and the brightness of a flexible light pad affixed to the center windshield frame in the cockpit. After the flight, he expressed his appreciation to the ground crew for not pressuring him and giving him the opportunity to perform multiple passes.

The second bag-drop location was on a plateau close to the landing zone and was situated about 85 ft above a dry riverbed. The plan was for the helicopter to maneuver toward the plateau while ascending from the riverbed. There were no lights in the river valley; however, the production crew had placed lights on the plateau and glowsticks and another light on the sloping terrain leading up from the riverbed to the top of the plateau. The flight began around 0330 and was conducted with the pilot in the right-front seat, the actor in the left-front seat, and the camera operator in the left-rear seat. The flexible light pad was cupped to direct the light toward the actor's face.

Before takeoff, the camera operator asked the pilot if they could try to use the light pad, and the pilot responded, "we'll see, it just really [sigh] blinds me." The camera operator then showed the actor how to operate the light pad. The actor turned it on to the lowest setting, and the camera operator remarked that it was bright but that they would see what the pilot thought; the pilot did not comment. During the initial takeoff and while maneuvering over the dry riverbed, the actor continued with scripted dialogue for about a minute until the pilot intervened to state that he needed the light pad turned off. The camera operator acknowledged him and informed the actor to turn off the light by pressing a button twice. The actor leaned forward to turn off the light, and, 8 seconds later, the camera operator announced, "where did uh, we're going down low," indicating that he was temporarily disoriented and then noted that they were descending. The actor cycled through the light's settings and eventually turned it off while the pilot simultaneously stated, "okay, okay, I can't." The camera operator interrupted saying, "pull up, pull up." The helicopter subsequently impacted terrain in the dry riverbed. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

The pilot recognized on the first flight that he was operating with reduced/no visibility and with a bright light in the cockpit that "blinded" him when it was on but chose to proceed with both flights likely because he believed that was what was required to fulfill the production requirements. Despite recognizing the hazards of the operation and relaying his concerns to the ground crew and camera operator,
Probable Cause: The pilot's decision to conduct a flight in dark night conditions with an illuminated cockpit light that degraded his visibility and his ability to identify and arrest the helicopter's descent while maneuvering, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: WPR13FA119
Status: Investigation completed
Download report: Final report




Revision history:

10-Feb-2013 13:23 Hans Gruber Added
10-Feb-2013 17:56 Geno Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Nature, Source, Narrative]
12-Feb-2013 05:14 gerard57 Updated [Registration, Cn]
22-Jun-2015 19:43 Aerossurance Updated [Operator, Source, Narrative]
11-Aug-2015 15:39 Aerossurance Updated [Source]
21-Dec-2016 19:28 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
28-Nov-2017 14:08 ASN Update Bot Updated [Other fatalities, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
23-Jul-2020 05:42 el_serj Updated [Source, Damage]
23-Jul-2020 05:47 harro Updated [Phase, Nature, Narrative]

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