Helicopter was spinning before Grand Canyon crash, report says

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A sightseeing helicopter made at last two 360-degree turns before crashing in the Grand Canyon killing three British tourists and injuring three others and the pilot, according to a report.

The National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report does not say what caused the February 10 crash.

However, aviation expert Jerry Kidrick said the report’s description of the helicopter’s movements as recounted by witnesses indicates its tail rotor was not working properly to keep the helicopter from spinning.

“There’s no reason for that aircraft to be spinning 360 to the left … unless the tail rotor is not being effective, likely due to a mechanical problem or gusty wind conditions in the canyon,” said Mr Kidrick.

The Airbus EC130 B4 helicopter operated by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters crashed while approaching landing pads at Quartermaster Canyon on tribal land outside Grand Canyon National Park after flying from Boulder City, Nevada.

According to the preliminary report, the helicopter slowed as it neared the landing area and turned to the left to face the pads.

“Subsequently, the helicopter made at least two 360-degree left turn revolutions as it descended into the wash below where it impacted terrain and a post-crash fire ensued,” the preliminary report stated.

Based on that description, the pilot was no longer in control of the helicopter because the tail rotor was not preventing it from spinning.

A pilot without an effective tail rotor could try to fly a helicopter fast enough to skid down the helicopter on a wide open flat area such as a runway, but the terrain inside the canyon would not allow that kind of manouevre, Mr Kidrick said. “There’s no place to accelerate forward.”

The preliminary report said a weather observation site two miles from the crash location had winds of 12 knots and gusts up to 19 knots.

Becky Dobson, 27, Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother Jason Hill, 32, were killed in the crash.

The injured British tourists, Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39, and pilot Scott Booth, 42, remain in a critical condition at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, said Scott Kerbs, a spokesman for the Las Vegas hospital.

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