Deadly Delay: GOM B206B3 Helicopter Night Accident 6 Feb 2017

Deadly Delay: GOM B206B3 Helicopter Night Accident 6 Feb 2017

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released information on a fatal accident involving Bell 206B N978RH of Republic Helicopters off the coast of Galveston Island, TX on 6 February 2017:

The flight originated from the oil tanker Eagle Vancouver, anchored in Galveston Bay…and was en route to Republic Helicopters heliport (2TE1), in Santa Fe [TX].

This was the helicopter’s third flight of the day. It departed 2TE1 at 1404 and flew to the oil tanker Eagle Vancouver and landed at 1457. The two passengers, both employees of Societe Generalde Surveillance (SGS) deplaned and commenced their work on the tanker.


The helicopter was scheduled to depart the tanker about 1600 but was delayed for unknown reasons. The helicopter eventually took off at 1837 and was scheduled to arrive at 2TE1 at 1910. Sunset was at 1802.

Hence, the return flight was at night and also breeched industry guidance to schedule landing 30 minutes prior to sundown.

The last radio communication from the pilot to Republic Operations was at 1906, when he reported he had the lights of Galveston in sight. The helicopter was equipped with a Blue Sky Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking system. The last data point from the Blue Sky system was at 1906…about .27 miles from the Galveston Island coastline. Altitude was 494 feet and speed was 127 mph. The accident site was…in West Bay, between Galveston Island and the mainland, or 4.30 miles from the last data…

One passenger was fatally injured. The pilot and a second passenger were seriously injured. The helicopter was destroyed.

Additionally the NTSB say:

Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed at the time of the accident.

The wreckage was recovered on February 8. Examination disclosed no evidence of airframe or flight control malfunction or failure. Engine examination disclosed no anomalies.

Despite one of its Bell 230s suffering a blade strike on the deck of a vessel in 2011, Republic still boasts of an accident free record (and that their pilot maintain instrument currency) on their website (as downloaded today):


A further fatal Gulf of Mexico helicopter accident occurred on 27 February 2017, involving Westwind Helicopters Bell 407 N1371.

See also: Helicopter Ops and Safety – Gulf Of Mexico 2015 Update

Aerossurance is pleased to sponsor the 2017 European Society of Air Safety Investigators (ESASI) 8th Regional Seminar in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 19 and 20 April 2017.  Registration is just €100 per delegate. To register for the seminar please follow this link.  ESASI is the European chapter of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI).

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