Heliski Flat Light Flight into Terrain

Heliski Flat Light Flight into Terrain (Alpine Air Alaska, AS350D, N99676)

On 15 March 2022, Airbus AS350D N99676 of Alpine Air Alaska was damaged near Valdez. Alaska when landing on a glacier during a heliski operation.  The pilot, the sole occupant, suffered minor injuries.

Wreckage of Airbus AS350D of (Credit via NTSB)

Wreckage of Airbus AS350D of Alpine Air Alaska (Credit via NTSB)

The US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) explain in their safety investigation report, issued on 5 July 2022, that the pilot had 9779 hours of flight experience and stated…

…that while on approach….to pick up a group of skiers, flat light conditions made it difficult to discern topographical features on the snow-covered, featureless, glacial terrain.

The pilot said that during the approach, he inadvertently allowed the helicopter to descend below his intended approach path…

The helicopter touched down c 200m short of his intended landing site.

The helicopter subsequently rolled to the left and the main rotor blades struck the snow-covered terrain. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the main rotor blades, tail rotor blades, tail boom, and fuselage.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot’s failure to maintain a proper approach path in flat light conditions, which resulted in landing short of the intended landing spot and impact with terrain.

Safety Resources

The European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) has a helicopter safety discussion group on LinkedIn.  You may also find these Aerossurance articles of interest:

UPDATE 15 February 2024: Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has published their safety investigation report into the crash of Airbus AS350B2 C-FYDA of Great Slave Helicopters on Griffith Island, Nunavut on 21 April 2021. Flat light was a factor.

EHEST Leaflet HE 13 Weather Threat For VMC Flights:EHEST_HE_13_2

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