Accident Sikorsky S-61N N612AZ, Tuesday 5 August 2008
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Date:Tuesday 5 August 2008
Type:Silhouette image of generic S61 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Sikorsky S-61N
Owner/operator:Carson Helicopters
Registration: N612AZ
MSN: 61297
Year of manufacture:1965
Engine model:General Electric CT58-140
Fatalities:Fatalities: 9 / Occupants: 13
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:near Weaverville, CA -   United States of America
Phase: Initial climb
Nature:Fire fighting
Departure airport:Weaverville, CA (H-44)
Destination airport:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
On August 5, 2008, about 1941 LT, a Sikorsky S-61N helicopter, N612AZ, impacted trees and terrain during the initial climb after takeoff from Helispot 44 (H-44), located at an elevation of about 6,000 feet in mountainous terrain near Weaverville, California. The pilot-in-command, the safety crewmember, and seven firefighters were fatally injured; the copilot and three firefighters were seriously injured. Impact forces and a postcrash fire destroyed the helicopter, which was being operated by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as a public flight to transport firefighters from H-44 to another helispot. The USFS had contracted with Carson Helicopters, Inc. (CHI) of Grants Pass, Oregon, for the services of the helicopter, which was registered to CHI and leased to Carson Helicopter Services, Inc. of Grants Pass. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and a company visual flight rules flight plan had been filed.

Probable Cause: The following actions by Carson Helicopters: 1) the intentional understatement of the helicopter's empty weight, 2) the alteration of the power available chart to exaggerate the helicopter's lift capability, and 3) the practice of using unapproved above-minimum specification torque in performance calculations that, collectively, resulted in the pilots relying on performance calculations that significantly overestimated the helicopter's load-carrying capacity and did not provide an adequate performance margin for a successful takeoff; and insufficient oversight by the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Contributing to the accident was the failure of the flight crewmembers to address the fact that the helicopter had approached its maximum performance capability on their two prior departures from the accident site because they were accustomed to operating at the limit of the helicopter’s performance.

Contributing to the fatalities were the immediate, intense fire that resulted from the spillage of fuel upon impact from the fuel tanks that were not crash resistant, the separation from the floor of the cabin seats that were not crash resistant, and the use of an inappropriate release mechanism on the cabin seat restraints.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: LAX08PA259
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 4 months
Download report: Final report



History of this aircraft

Other occurrences involving this aircraft

30 April 1970 CF-OKP Okanagan 0 Shelburne, NS sub



(c) NTSB

(c) NTSB

Revision history:

06-Aug-2008 08:54 agentfazexx Added
06-Aug-2008 08:56 harro Updated
06-Aug-2008 23:25 harro Updated
19-Jul-2009 10:57 Anon. Updated
16-Sep-2009 10:39 harro Updated
16-Sep-2009 10:39 harro Updated
25-Nov-2014 21:54 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Narrative]
06-Mar-2016 09:35 Aerossurance Updated [Source]
21-Dec-2016 19:14 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
21-Dec-2016 19:16 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
21-Dec-2016 19:20 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
03-Dec-2017 11:57 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
30-Jul-2019 07:02 Aerossurance Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Nature]
30-Jan-2020 07:06 Anon. Updated [Departure airport]
30-Jan-2020 18:45 Anon. Updated [Phase]
30-Jan-2020 18:47 harro Updated [Narrative, Accident report, ]

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