The NTSB has released its preliminary report on the November 18, 2015, crash of an Airbus AS350B3E helicopter in Carlsbad, California. Tragically, the aircraft's pilot and passenger were killed in the crash.
The helicopter, registration N711BE, was descending onto a movable helipad at McClellan-Palomar Airport when its skids contacted the helipad's front edge, causing the aircraft's tailskid to strike the ground. The helicopter then entered into "back and forth oscillations" and the helipad broke from the rear left chock and pivoted on its front right wheel.
The aircraft began spinning with the helipad but later rapidly climbed and rotated to the right 270 degrees. About fifty seconds later, the aircraft landed to the east of the helipad, straddling the taxiway and the ramp. The line crew then attempted to secure the helipad by installing chocks on three of its four wheels.
The pilot again attempted to land the aircraft on the helipad with no success. During the final attempt, the helicopter landed short of the helipad and rocked back twice onto the aircraft's tailskid. The helicopter spun 180 degrees and reached a 45 degree nose up attitude, causing the tailrotor and vertical stabilizer to strike the ground.
The aircraft "bounced" and eventually landed hard on the ground with the main rotor blades still spinning. The entire helicopter then began to spin continuously for five minutes and ten seconds. Eventually, the tailboom and horizontal stabilizer separated from the helicopter and it rolled on its side, causing the rotor blades to strike the ground and come off the aircraft. While there was no indication of fire, the engine's exhaust subsequently emitted white smoke.
The pilot was the owner of the aircraft, which was manufactured by Airbus in 2013. News outlets have reported he told air traffic control moments before the incident that the wheeled helipad was not properly secured by the line crew.
Further investigation should reveal whether the helipad was properly secured for landing and whether a product defect played a role in the crash.
Kreindler & Kreindler is the world's leading aviation accident law firm. The firm's partners include former military helicopter pilots who have successfully resolved cases involving the AS350. If you have any questions regarding this incident, please contact us.