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up. On either the second or third hover, the pilot experienced a slight left yaw, which he believed he corrected. The heli­ copter then started “spinning rapidly” and descended into the trees. Witness accounts of the spin direction have not yet been reconciled.

The SAR member in the rear seat remained conscious throughout the event, and extricated himself, despite an injured leg. He assisted the other SAR member and the pilot out of the helicopter after they became verbally responsive. The second SAR member subsequently succumbed to his injuries. The pilot carried a radio to the top of a nearby ridge and requested assis­ tance. A ground team of the same law enforecement agency and other personnel reached the helicopter about 75 minutes later. The accident site was heavily wood­ ed, and the elevation was about 9,350 feet above mean sea level.


On February 15, 2012, about 1300 moun­ tain standard time, a Bell Helicopter model 407, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain in the Bridger Teton National Forest near Moran Junction, Wyoming, during a search and rescue (SAR) mission. The commercial pilot and one SAR crewmember received serious injuries, and the other SAR crewmember was fatally injured. The pub­ lic­use flight was operated by a local law enforcement agency. Visual meteorologi­ cal conditions prevailed, and no FAA flight plan was filed for the flight.

The mission was in response to a reported snowmobile injury accident, in

order to transport medical personnel to that scene. Initial attempts to locate that victim, based on trail network and geo­ graphic coordinate information, were unsuccessful. The helicopter began a grid search, and the crew observed two snow­ mobilers signaling to them in a meadow. The helicopter landed in the meadow, and a SAR member exited and spoke with the snowmobilers. They were from the vic­ tim’s party, and they agreed to lead the helicopter on their snowmobiles to the accident site. The SAR member reboarded the helicopter, the helicopter lifted off to follow the snowmobilers, flying about 100 to 200 feet above the trees. Since the hel­ icopter was faster than the snowmobiles, the pilot stopped two or three times in a hover to allow the snowmobiles to catch

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information indicated that the pilot held multiple certificates and ratings, including a commercial pilot certificate with a rotor­ craft­helicopter rating. The pilot reported a total flight experience of about 22,250 hours, including about 4,500 hours in the accident helicopter make and model. His most recent FAA second­class medical cer­ tificate was issued in May 2011. According to FAA information, the heli­ copter was manufactured in 2008, and was equipped with a Rolls Royce 250­C47 series turboshaft engine. The helicopter was registered to a commercial helicopter operator, leased to the law enforcement agency, and operated by flight personnel of the commercial helicopter operator. The 1251 automated weather observa­ tion for Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Jackson, Wyoming, located about 25 miles southwest of the accident site, included winds from 090 degrees at 4 knots; visibil­

Editor’s Note: Although an accident is painful for all involved, a cursory review of what accidents have occurred are both

reflective and instructive. Accident reports give us unique insights into specific flights and situations that may make each of us reflect on our own operations or current flying environment. I encourage pilots, mechanics, crewmembers, and decision makers to make it a habit to study the industry’s recent accident history. If they trigger a higher awareness that saves even one life or one airframe, it will have been worth the read.

APRIL 2012 30

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