R/T and radar trace:
All I can think is a CFIT accident, I am surprised helis have same exposure as aeroplanes but the conceptual issue is always the same you can’t rely on MK1 eyeball, TWAS/SV to find a safe low level route around terrain to go A to B when things are not going to plan (e.g. you don’t have a route yet) sometimes the only safe low level route has to involve 180 backtrack which is far more easier to do in helis? But in the other hand they fly close to IMC and terrain, so that competitive advantage would go away on the slightest pilot error…
Of course it is dead easy to take a route/altitude and check it is safe vs terrain but the problem is trying to find a safe route from a given amsl altitude and point (this require lot of try & error algorithms are rocket science for someone to sort in noisy cockpits), all what MK1 eyeball, TWAS/SV will tell you is “should have climbed above MSA from start” or “it is the time to backtrack”
According to one report I read the impact was at about 150kt, which would be going some for a low level flight under low cloud.
3 Controllers asked the Pilot if he really is in VMC (some multiple times) – at least one of them in a Tower which is almost directly below the flight path.
I guess that’s at least a hint on what could have happened…
Very sad accident. Scud running is probably very common in the helicopter industry due to the nature of operations. That builds up pressure to get the flight done no matter the weather situation. We do not know yet if it was due to the weather but it is probably a good guess.
Why didn’t he go IFR ? It is so easy in the US (land at any field, call ATC or FSS, file and wait for release). The pilot was CPL so necessarily instrument rated. The sikorsky was
- he didn’t have enough fuel reserves
- he was not current for IFR : plausible if he always flew low level VFR
- the air taxi company is restricted to VFR
Anyway, in these conditions, the flight didn’t seem doable at all. Very bad advertising for aviation.
RIP the 9 deceased.
Sometimes I wonder if these multimillion aircrafts lack the avionics capabilities (in this case SV) that we enjoy for few k’s cost in our smaller planes…
Civilian helicopters rarely fly IFR and I believe the company was not authorised for it. Helicopters are usually pretty marginal on fuel and IFR routings when heavy can make the flight not possible.
The problem as I understand it is that helicopters can very safely fly under an overcast that a fixed wing could never dream to do. But like anything, if you push too far and inadvertently enter IMC, bad things can happen.
US reports suggest it did not have any terrain warning system.
I saw his name reported and anybody can go to faa.gov to check if he had an IR.
IFR in helis is not common but more common in the more fancy ones. Nowadays all IFR cert ones are twin turbine (as this one was). They tend to have an autopilot which can fly an ILS etc. What you can’t do, I am told, is fly slowly or hover in IMC, in most of them. The big ones are stabilised and they can.
You should not need GPWS/TAWS/SV if you are either VMC or flying an IAP, in theory…