Main rotor contact with mountain likely cause of July 2011 helicopter crash near Stewart, British Columbia

GATINEAU, QC, July 19, 2013 /CNW/ - A helicopter engaged in mining operations in mountainous terrain near Stewart, British Columbia, likely struck the mountain face with its main rotor blades, causing it to crash, concluded the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigation report (A11P0117) released today. The 3 occupants of the helicopter were fatally injured.

On the morning of 31 July 2011, just after 09:00, a VIH Helicopters Ltd. Bell 407 helicopter left Stewart Airport with the pilot and 2 passengers on board. The helicopter flew to a geological exploration site 14 nautical miles north of Stewart, adjacent to the Nelson Glacier. There, the helicopter engaged in manoeuvers that allowed the passengers to view rock formations of interest in the rock face. Approximately 6 hours later, the wreckage of the aircraft was discovered strewn down the steep mountainside at the exploration site.

As the helicopter did not have, nor was required to have, either a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder, the investigation relied on information from a GPS unit, data from cameras held by the occupants, and information from data chips on engine components. The investigation concluded that while working in close proximity to steep terrain, the helicopter's main rotor blades made contact with terrain, causing loss of control; it then crashed. Investigators determined that the accident was not survivable.

The report also noted that VIH company procedures regarding filing flight plans and tracking overdue aircraft were not followed. It found that when a company's actual practice does not follow its written procedure, flight crew and passengers may be at increased risk of injury or death following an accident. As a result of the accident, VIH Helicopters Ltd. is working with manufacturers of flight data monitoring systems to develop and test hardware and software that would further meet the needs of visual flight rules helicopter operations.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

SOURCE: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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