The helicopter pilot stated that he "immediately" queried on CTAF whether the airplane crew had him in sight. The pilot heard a "double click" on the CTAF frequency, which he interpreted as acknowledgement by the airplane crew that they had him in sight.
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, July 25, 2014 in Boulder City, NV
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER EC 130 B4, registration: N154GC
Injuries: 9 Uninjured.
On July 25, 2014, about 1643 Pacific daylight time, a landing Eurocopter/Airbus EC-130, N154GC, and a taxiing DeHavilland DHC-6, N190GC collided at Boulder City airport (BVU) Boulder City, Nevada. Neither the two pilots on board the airplane, nor the pilot and six passengers aboard the helicopter, were injured. The helicopter, operated by Papillon Airways Inc. (dba Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters dba Grand Canyon Helicopters) as an aerial sightseeing flight, sustained substantial damage. That flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. The airplane, operated by Grand Canyon Airlines, was beginning a repositioning flight, and was being operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed.
According to the EC-130 pilot, he was inbound from the south, and planned to land on the airport location designated as "Spot 2," which was a dedicated helicopter arrival and departure location. He followed the company-designated arrival procedure, in which the helicopter flew a descending pattern first north along the centerline of taxiway A, and then west along the centerline of taxiway D to Spot 2. Spot 2 was a 50-foot painted square situated on the airport ramp. Taxiway D was 40 feet wide, was oriented approximately east-west, and comprised the southern perimeter of the same ramp. The center of Spot 2 was located about 50 feet north of the centerline of taxiway D. Since BVU was not equipped with an operating air traffic control tower, the pilot communicated his positions and intentions via radio transmissions on the BVU common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF).
The helicopter pilot first saw the airplane when the helicopter was making the left turn from north to west near the junction of taxiways A and D. At that time, the airplane was moving south, towards taxiway D, along a taxi line just east of Spot 1, on ramp about 600 feet east of Spot 2. The airplane crew announced their intentions on CTAF to taxi to runway 15 via taxiway D. The helicopter pilot reported that the last time he saw the airplane prior to the accident was as the helicopter overflew the intersection of taxiway D and the taxi line just east of Spot 1. At that time, the airplane was turning westbound onto taxiway D. The helicopter pilot realized the potential for conflict, since the two were now both traveling westbound along taxiway D. The helicopter pilot stated that he "immediately" queried on CTAF whether the airplane crew had him in sight. The pilot heard a "double click" on the CTAF frequency, which he interpreted as acknowledgement by the airplane crew that they had him in sight. Based on this information, the pilot was convinced that the airplane was behind him and that its flight crew had him in sight.
The helicopter pilot therefore continued his descent along the centerline of taxiway D towards Spot 2. About 8 to 10 seconds later, as the helicopter came almost abeam of Spot 2, the pilot began a right pedal turn to traverse to and set down on Spot 2. At the commencement of that pedal turn, the pilot simultaneously spotted the wings and nose of the airplane through his chin windows, and felt an" impact." He stopped the turn and descent, transitioned to Spot 2, descended, and landed on the ramp.
The flight crew of the airplane was unaware that there had been a collision, and they continued with their taxi-out and departure from BVU. The airplane was recalled to BVU by company personnel once they learned of the collision. The airplane was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR). Subsequent to the company's attempt to obtain a non-NTSB sanctioned readout of the CVR, the device was obtained by the NTSB, and sent to the NTSB recorders laboratory in Washington, DC for readout.
The helicopter pilot had recently been hired by Papillon, and the accident occurred on his first day "flying the line" for the operator. The captain of the airplane began his duty day at 0507 that morning, and the collision occurred during his sixth flight of the day.
The 1656 automated weather observation at Henderson Executive airport (HND) Las Vegas Nevada, located about 13 miles west of BVU, included winds from 240 degrees at 15 knots, gusts to 19 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 40 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.86 inches of mercury.
A commenter writes: All you sky god's on here commenting like you haven't made a mistake.
I remember flying in the canyon with only a 1000 hours. I wonder how many times I landed and if a plane was under me I wouldn't have known. I wonder how many times the variables could have lined up during that moment my attention was some where else.
This guy is either incredibly unlucky, or incompetent. We don't know which it is. But if you have been flying long enough, your butt has been saved by nothing but pure dumb luck more than once, and you know it.
I have made some pretty bad decisions during my career. I do my best to learn from them and not make them twice. Some of those decision I made during the early portion of my career could have been really bad.
None of us are perfect. Every time we fly we take a risk, so let's stop picking this guy apart, learn what we can, and hopefully the next time a guy in another aircraft calls you in sight you don't trust him. That is what I am learning from this guy's mistake. Oh yeah, and look before you leap. (OR LAND)