Premium on Safety - Issue 51, 2024 - 14

LESSONS LEARNED
STUDENT PILOTS' EFFORTS TO LEARN THE
FEDERAL AVIATION REGULATIONS OFTEN START
WITH FAR 91.3, WHICH BEGINS:
(a) The pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft
is directly responsible for, and is the final
authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.
This is commonly interpreted as giving the
PIC the final word on go/no-go decisions. A
more systematic approach to risk management
limits one facet of that discretion. The pilot
retains complete freedom to decline a flight,
but the operator's policies clearly define
conditions under which flight will not be
attempted, even if the pilot is willing.
Still, the effectiveness of even the strictest
minimum requirements is limited by the quality
of the information-on weather, traffic, and
aircraft performance-fed into that evaluation.
The pilot retains complete
freedom to decline a flight, but
the operator's policies clearly
define conditions under which
flight will not be attempted,
even if the pilot is willing.
At 4:31 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time on
December 26, 2019, an Airbus Helicopters
AS350 B2 lifted off from the Lihue Airport
in southeast Kauai, Hawaii, on a Part 135
air tour. Six passengers were on board, and
the company's chief pilot was at the controls.
The flight was the last of eight 50-minute
tours on his schedule. Weather had been
favorable all day, but two pilots from a rival
tour company who reached the island's
northwest coast at about that time reported
that low clouds and rain had begun moving
onshore. Both chose to divert their flights
away from Waimea Canyon.
The standard 50-minute tour route began
westward, parallel to Kauai's southern coast,
then angled northwest into Waimea Canyon,
exiting the canyon with a quick left turn
near Waipo'o Falls. A microwave tower on
the canyon's western rim served tour pilots
as a reporting point. From there, the route
proceeded north to the Nāpali Coast, tracking
the shoreline to Wainiha on Hanalei Bay
before following a generally southeasterly
track on the east side of the island's central
mountains back to Lihue.
A pilot flying for a second competitor departed
about five minutes later and heard the AS350
pilot report passing the tower. He could see
Image courtesy of Thomas Milosch.
The accident helicopter was a 1998 Airbus AS350 B2,
which had logged 2,155 hours on its Safran Helicopter
Engines Arriel 1D1 turboshaft engine and 21,854 hours
on its airframe. This model was equipped with a threebladed
main rotor, a two-bladed tail rotor, and skid-style
landing gear.
low weather at the north end of the canyon but
thought the preceding flight must have found
a way through. An onboard video recording
showed that his flight was in good visibility
at the southern end of the canyon at 4:54
p.m. with clouds visible ahead. Three minutes
later, at the canyon's north end, visibility had
deteriorated badly, and two minutes after that,
he decided to break off and reverse course.
A hiker on the Nu'alolo Trail north of the
canyon at an elevation of 3,100 feet recalled
" very dense fog " following about 45 minutes
of heavy rain, limiting visibility to 20 feet.
He heard a helicopter that " sounded like it
14
https://www.airbushelicopters.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/AS350-B2.pdf https://www.aopa.org/destinations/airports/PHLI/details https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-14/chapter-I/subchapter-F/part-91/subpart-A/section-91.3 https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-14/chapter-I/subchapter-G/part-135/subpart-A/section-135.1 https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-14/chapter-I/subchapter-G/part-135/subpart-A/section-135.1

Premium on Safety - Issue 51, 2024

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