Premium on Safety - Issue 51, 2024 - 15

LESSONS LEARNED
was hovering above and beside him, then...
turning or moving across the sky, " followed
by a " strange squealing noise. " The heavy fog
thwarted his attempts to look for the aircraft.
The AS350's last transponder
return was received at 4:39
p.m....At 5:31 p.m., 11 minutes
after its expected return, the
staffer handling flight-tracking
duties advised the company's
president and director of
operations (DO) that the aircraft
was overdue.
The AS350's last transponder return was
received at 4:39 p.m., which is typical given
the limited low-altitude radar coverage in the
area. At 5:31 p.m., 11 minutes after its expected
return, the staffer handling flight-tracking
duties advised the company's president and
director of operations (DO) that the aircraft
was overdue. Another company pilot returned
to work and initiated a search but had to
remain south of the low weather. Assuming
the tour pilot had made a precautionary
landing, he climbed to make several radio
transmissions. They went unanswered.
At 9:32 the following morning, a rescue
helicopter team found the wreckage on
the face of a steep ridge about a quarter
mile east of where the hiker heard it pass.
Tree trunks near the top of the slope were
" cleanly severed. " The cockpit and cabin were
" extensively fragmented with the majority of
the structure consumed by post-crash fire. "
There were no survivors.
The 69-year-old commercial pilot also held
an airframe and powerplant mechanic's
certificate. He reported 14,000 hours of
flight time on his last medical application,
filed five months before the accident, with
475 in the previous six months. Company
staff estimated that he routinely flew about
40 hours a month. The FAA inspector who
conducted his last competency check, which
included unusual attitude recoveries in
simulated instrument conditions, described
his overall performance as above average
with an " exceptional " understanding of the
island and its weather. The FAA inspector
who'd conducted his previous competency
check in 2018 described him as " a fantastic
pilot, " and the company pilot who made the
unsuccessful search the day of the accident
recalled his warnings against trying to
fly through " sucker holes, " pointing out
available precautionary landing sites and
Image courtesy of County of Kauai.
This photograph was taken after the Airbus AS350 B2
collided with terrain about 11 miles north of Kekaha,
Hawaii, on December 26, 2019.
cautioning that it wasn't worth taking
risks for " just...a tour. " The company's DO
described him as " the most conservative
pilot " on Kauai. A competitor's pilot said
that " he wasn't high-risk...He was a veteran.
I would just say he knew what he was doing,
and he had his limitation. " Like the vast
majority of helicopter pilots, he had never
obtained an instrument rating, though the
helicopter was equipped with basic attitude
instruments.
The NTSB's 144-page report notes that
Kauai's weather is highly variable. Periods
of reduced visibility in rain or fog often
15
https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/AIR2205.pdf

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