NTSB Issues Report on Airbus Helicopter Crash in Hawaii

by | May 12, 2022 | Aviation Accident, Wrongful Death

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its report on the December 26, 2019 helicopter crash of an Airbus AS350 B2 in Kekaha, Hawaii.  During the crash, the seven-seat helicopter crashed into a wooded area, killing six passengers and the pilot.  The flight was operated by Safari Aviation Inc.   During the course of the investigation the NTSB found numerous safety-related issues which all contributed to this tragic crash occurring.

The NTSB’s report documents what happened leading up to the crash:

On December 26, 2019, about 1657 Hawaii standard time, a seven-seat helicopter operated by Safari Aviation Inc. as a commercial air tour flight encountered instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and collided into terrain in a remote, wooded area near Kekaha, Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. The pilot and the six passengers were fatally injured, and the helicopter was destroyed.

The weather on Kauai had been favorable for tours for most of the day; however, just before the accident flight departed, low clouds and rain began moving onshore from the northwest (which was an atypical weather pattern for Kauai) and affecting locations on the tour route, including areas where the accident flight was headed. At least three other tour pilots saw the adverse weather and decided to divert their tours away from it. The accident pilot, however, decided to continue his tour into deteriorating weather, eventually losing adequate visual references before the helicopter struck terrain.

During the investigation, it was determined the terrain on the island resulted in limited weather observation sources.  The mountainous terrain also interfered with both air-to-ground radio communications and flight-tracking technology.  The pilot of the subject flight continued into worsening weather conditions, potentially unaware of what the helicopter would encounter.

The NTSB determined the probable cause:

The NTSB determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s decision to continue flight under visual flight rules (VFR) into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), which resulted in the collision into terrain. Contributing to the accident was Safari Aviation Inc.’s lack of safety management processes to identify hazards and mitigate the risks associated with factors that influence pilots to continue VFR flight into IMC. Also contributing to the accident was the Federal Aviation Administration’s delayed implementation of a Hawaii aviation weather camera program, its lack of leadership in the development of a cue-based weather training program for Hawaii air tour pilots, and its ineffective monitoring and oversight of Hawaii air tour operators’ weather-related operating practices.

The incident shows that safe tour operators must identify hazards and provide adequate mitigation techniques to their pilots.  The NTSB issued additional recommendations to tour companies:

To Tour Operators Program of Safety: Inform your members and make information available to the broader air tour community about the circumstances of this accident, provide information about available helicopter safety technologies for reducing the risk of accidents related to inadvertent encounters with instrument meteorological conditions, and encourage air tour operators to voluntarily incorporate such features into their helicopter fleets.

Spagnoletti Law Firm has attorneys licensed in Texas, Florida, and New York.  We have handled numerous cases involving the failure of necessary equipment on a plane or helicopter in both federal and state court across the country.  When it comes to aviation, safety must come first.  Our attorneys have extensive experience in plane and helicopter crash litigation and the skills needed to aggressively represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or those who have been seriously injured in a plane or helicopter crash.  The experienced aviation attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of a crash. Please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or to learn more about your legal rights.