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Sun, Feb 25, 2024

NTSB Prelim: Airbus Helicopters EC130

Witnesses Reported The Weather Conditions In The Area Were “Not Good” And Raining With A Snow Mix

Location: Halloran Springs, CA Accident Number: CEN24MA111
Date & Time: February 9, 2024, 22:08 Local Registration: N130CZ
Aircraft: Airbus Helicopters EC130 Injuries: 6 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled

On February 9, 2024, about 2208 Pacific standard time, an Airbus Helicopters EC 130B4 helicopter, N130CZ, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Halloran Springs, California. The two pilots and four passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated by Orbic Air, LLC, as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on-demand flight. According to automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) data and operator personnel, the flight departed the operator’s base at Bob Hope Airport, Burbank, California, at 1822, to reposition the helicopter for a charter passenger flight and arrived at the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), Palm Springs, California, at 1907.

The accident flight departed PSP at 2045 under visual flight rules and flew a northwesterly heading for about 2 miles before following US Highway 111 to Interstate (I) 10 at altitudes varying between 2,500 - 3,000 ft mean sea level (msl). The helicopter continued along I-10, crossed over San Bernadino International Airport, San Bernadino, California, and then followed I-215 to I-15.

The helicopter followed I-15 toward the planned destination of Boulder City Municipal Airport (BVU), Boulder City, Nevada, climbed between 4,000 - 5,500 ft msl, then descended to about 3,500 ft msl near Barstow, California, where the ADS-B track data was lost about 2146, likely due to terrain interference. ADS-B data resumed at 2207 near the Halloran Springs/I-15 exit west of the accident location. The last ADS-B data points for the flight tracked east-southeast, gradually descended in altitude, and increased in ground speed. The accident site was located 0.31 miles east-southeast of the last data point at an elevation of about 3,360 ft msl.

According to law enforcement, several witnesses who were traveling in vehicles on I-15, called 911 to report observing a “fireball” to the south. The witnesses reported the weather conditions in the area were “not good” and raining with a snow mix. The accident site was located by law enforcement at 2346. The wreckage was located in high mountainous desert and scrub brush covered terrain, and debris were scattered about 300 ft along a 120° magnetic heading from the initial impact point. The initial impact point, which was a 1.5 ft deep, 12 ft long and 10 ft wide ground crater, contained portions of the right landing gear skid, right skid step, cockpit wiring, and cabin floor structure. The right skid step protruded upward at a 45° angle at the most eastern edge of the ground crater. Immediately to the right of the crater was a ground divot consistent in the size and shape of the rotor head, with 2 main rotor blade impact marks extending from the divot.

All major helicopter components were identified at the accident site. The fuselage was fragmented, and the cockpit and cabin were destroyed. Some debris and vegetation displayed thermal damage. The flight control tubes and linkages leading up to the flight control servos were fragmented and continuity could not be verified. All three pitch control links were attached at the swashplate and blade pitch change horns. The main rotor blades were fragmented and broomstrawed, and the blade sleeves and tips were present.

The fenestron tail section with the tail fin and horizontal stabilizer separated from the forward part of the tail boom. All the fenestron blades remained in their hubs and the blade tips displayed chordwise scratches. The engine displayed rotational damage signatures and metal deposits consistent with powered operations at impact.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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