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Wed, Apr 14, 2004

NTSB: Second Update On Gulf Helicopter Crash

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 Mexico.

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 the wreckage.

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.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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