The following is an
update of the NTSB's investigation into the crash of an ERA
Aviation, Inc. Sikorsky S-76A++ twin-engine turbine powered
helicopter (N579EH) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004, in the Gulf of
The on-scene portion of the accident investigation concluded on
Saturday, April 3. Before the investigative team left, a sweeper
ship dragged the debris field for small parts of the wreckage that
might still have been there. Those parts (probably comprising about
1 percent of the aircraft) were delivered to Lake Charles,
Louisiana, where they were documented and secured with the rest of
A number of pieces of wreckage have been forwarded to the Safety
Board's laboratory in Washington, D.C. for further examination.
Among them are the first 20 feet of the tail rotor drive shaft and
two hanger bearings, the caution advisory panel from the cockpit,
the servo actuator valve for the landing gear, the airspeed
indicator, both altimeters and the radio select panel.
Other components were sent to their manufacturers for further
examination under NTSB supervision later this month. They are the
engines and electrical tachometer boxes to Turbomeca in Grand
Prairie, Texas; the main, interim, and tail gear boxes to Sikorsky
in Shelton, Connecticut; and the symbol generator to Sperry
Aerospace (now Honeywell) in Phoenix, Arizona. The Global
Positioning System was sent to Free Flight Systems in Waco, Texas,
where an attempt was made to download the data; this attempt was
unsuccessful, presumably because the unit's submersion in salt
water depleted the battery.
Radar data have been examined. The data indicate that the
helicopter was cruising at 1,800 feet when it started a descent at
about 250 feet per minute to 1,100 feet. At that point radar
contact was lost (radar coverage is limited at lower altitudes that
distance from the radar site), but the wreckage was found about 40
miles from the last radar hit and about 15 miles from the last
routine radio call from the flight crew.
The Board's investigation into this crash continues.