NTSB Preliminary Report Out On Helicopter Crash In El Paso <


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NTSB Preliminary Report Out On Helicopter Crash In El Paso

By Mike Mitchell

February 15, 2010 - The NTSB released a preliminary report on the Aerospatiale helicopter that crashed 23 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas on February 5, 2010. The report indicates that on February 5, 2010, approximately 1920 Mountain Standard Time, an Aerospatiale AS350 B2 helicopter, N157BC, was destroyed upon impact with terrain while maneuvering in the McGregor Military Range, 23 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas. A post-crash fire ensued.

The commercial pilot and two paramedics died in the crash. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 practice emergency medical services (EMS) flight.  The helicopter was operated by Enchantment Aviation Inc D.B.A. Southwest Med Evac. Omniflight Helicopter Inc owned Enchantment Aviation. The flight departed the El Paso International Airport (KELP), El Paso, Texas approximately 1825.


The flight was conducted under an EMS contract with the United States Army and was attempting to pick up a soldier to simulate transporting injured Army personnel. The flight was to use night vision goggles (NVGs) and standard company practice would be for the pilot and paramedic seated in the left aft seat to be on NVGs. 

Several Army personnel utilizing various night vision devices were in the vicinity of the accident. The Army personnel stated that the helicopter arrived to the south of the accident site and made two right turn orbits. The helicopter was seen turning on and panning the white spot light during these orbits. Personnel on the ground attempted to make radio contact with the helicopter but were not successful, so they began utilizing illumination to signal the helicopter.  

The helicopter was then observed to make a third orbit which was wider than the first two. During the third orbit, the helicopter banked approximately 45 degrees and entered a steep nose down attitude before impacting the ground. 

The helicopter collided with relatively level terrain which contained low-lying desert vegetation and the surrounding area was free of towers, transmission wires, and man-made obstacles. The helicopter was found broken into several pieces, the largest of which were found in or near the 18-inch deep impact crater. All major components were accounted for at the accident site.


The post-impact fire consumed a majority of the cockpit instrumentation. The forward portion of the right skid toe was found fractured and embedded in hard soil with signatures consistent with an impact angle of 42 degrees nose low and 35 degrees of right bank. After initial documentation of the scene, several components were retained for further examination. 

The commercial pilot had recently been hired by Enchantment Aviation Inc having previously flown helicopters for the United States Army and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. In addition, the pilot held airline transport pilot certificate with Boeing 737, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, and Lockheed L-1011 type ratings.  

The pilot began training near the end of November 2009 and on December 22, 2009 the pilot completed the company's initial pilot-in-command training. On January 29, 2010, the pilot had completed the company's NVG training program. 

At 1951, an automated weather reporting station at KELP, located 23 nautical miles southwest of the accident site reported winds calm, visibility 10 miles, skies clear, temperature 46 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 28 F, and a barometric pressure of 30.13 inches of Mercury.

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