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40 Years of Representative
For the crews working the demanding job of heliskiing, here is a bit of context. There are no new ways to crash a helicopter though sometimes it looks like they are trying hard to find one.
This information, though not complete, gives an idea of the hazards facing heliski pilots as they perform the high end flying with all the limitations that is heliskiing.
What can you, as involved crew, do to keep the helicopter from ending up like these?
Are you setting the pilot up for failure?
How do you choose where to land, when to fly, how much to take, when to pull the pin and stop the operation?
Find out how
40 Years of Representative Heliski Accidents
Methodology - "Heliski" used as search term in Transport Canada Aviation Safety Letters, Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reports (CADORS) and Transportation Safety Board (TSB) reports.
The Bell 205 A1 C-GWLI was transporting a group of skiers to an area at the 8500-ft elevation, the pilot suddenly reversed course during the final stage of his landing over steeply
rising terrain. During the turn, a skid contacted snow and a small rock outcropping. The helicopter initiated an avalanche as it overturned and tumbled down the steep slope. The wreckage was strewn and partly buried over a 2000 ft area down the avalanche slope killing 4 and injuring 10.
The Bell 212 pilot landed in a mountain meadow to pick up skiers. On takeoff as the helicopter did not come out of the whiteout as expected, the pilot aborted. The right skid dug in and the machine rolled over.
The pilot of the AStar C-FSPR, with five passengers, began an approach to a heli-skiing landing site at 7,500 feet near Pemberton BC. Just prior to touchdown, the helicopter ran into down flowing air. The pilot attempted to check the rate of descent, but the skids touched down short of the intended landing site on sloping terrain. The helicopter bounced back into the air, and the main-rotor rpm began to decay. The rpm continued to decay, and the helicopter yawed to the left. The pilot attempted to reach another landing site some 50 feet ahead and slightly lower. As the machine touched down again, the tail boom hit a large rock, damaging the tail boom, tail rotor drive shaft, tail rotor gearbox, and tail rotor.
The Bell 206L C-GPRM landed on a snow-covered mountain ridge by Clute Lake, near Kaslo, B.C. to inspect possible heli-ski and fishing locations. The pilot rolled the throttle to ground idle, undid his seat belt, and was just starting out of the machine when it began to slide toward the edge of the cliff. Seconds after clearing the 206. the pilot watched as his helicopter disappeared over the edge. Now stranded 7000 feet up the mountain, he called for help on a portable radio that he carried in his jacket. Snowmobilers sent to rescue him found the cold and tired pilot part way down the mountain at about 2230 hours that night, and transported him to safety. The helicopter was destroyed.
The MD 500D C-GVOU pilot had dropped off his three heli-ski passengers near Chilko Lake and was attempting to land on a frozen lake when he lost visual contact with the surface and crashed. He was in a hover and just about to touch down when blowing and recirculating snow caused him to lose visual cues. The helicopter drifted left, and the main rotor struck the shoreline embankment. The helicopter ended up on its left side, heavily damaged. The pilot was not injured.
The Alpine Helicopters Bell 212 C-FALV on final approach near Glacier Dome BC at the 10,000-foot level, and at about 80 feet above the landing area, the pilot reduced collective to allow for an increase in up-flowing air. Immediately thereafter, and without warning, the helicopter began to sink rapidly. Although he applied full power, the pilot was unable to stop the descent, and the helicopter landed heavily. The skid gear was broken during the landing, and the belly was damaged. There were no injuries. Investigation revealed that the Heliski customer had loadedtwo extra passengers without informing the pilot, thus overloading the 212 by about 250 pounds. The operator has reviewed passenger control procedures to prevent recurrence.
The Bell 205 C-GRVQ was on approach to an alpine landing site at the 6500-foot level near Cartier Mountain, to drop off 12 skiers. Just prior to touchdown, the pilot elected to abort the landing and proceed to a landing site further up the mountain. The helicopter, in the hover, was
heading toward a ridge, and the pilot found that he did not have enough power to out-climb the mountain. As they neared the ridge, the pilot lost visual reference in recirculating snow (snowball) created by the helicopter’s downdraft. The main rotor struck a tree, and the helicopter descended rapidly, coming to rest upright, 50 feet from the initially intended landing site. The passenger in the left front seat suffered minor back injuries, and the helicopter was substantially damaged.
The Bell 205A C-GPET was landing near Whistler BC to deplane a group of heli-skiers when the pilot ran into whiteout conditions and lost visual reference with the ground. The main rotor struck the ground causing substantial damage to the helicopter. There were no injuries.
1996-05-02The Bell 212 C-GKTL was flying heliski support at Tyax Lodge. On take-off from the 5000 ft level, during a heliskiing lift, the helicopter created a whiteout condition and drifted into high ground and crashed. There were no reported injuries but substantial damage.
The 206L C-FYHD was on short final to a pad near Valemount with a load of heli-skiers, when the 206L lost all power. The pilot carried out a successful autorotation without damaging the aircraft or injuring any of the passengers. Initial examination of the Allison 250-C20 revealed that all of the compressor blades downstream from the first stage were either broken off or severely damaged.
The Bell 212 C-FALK was attempting to pick up skiers on the lake at 7000 ft. ASL near Gold Stream BC. The approach was fairly steep and slow to the featureless, snow covered lake. The 212 was drifting sideways as the skids touched and the helicopter started to roll. The main rotor hit the ice and the machine became airborne once again before it hit a second time and rolled onto its back. The sky was obscured and visibility was reported to be about 1 mile. Whiteout and a loss of visual cues are a probable cause.
The Bell 206L C-FYHD pilot was attempting to land at a heli-ski area south of Valemount when the helicopter rolled down a steep slope, coming to rest back on its skids. The pilot and his five passengers, all securely held in place by restraint systems, were not injured, but the helicopter was substantially damaged.
The Bell 212 was transporting 11 skiers to a heli-ski site in the vicinity of Blue River. During landing the main rotor struck some brush beside the marked landing site. The helicopter was landed and shut down without further incident. The landing area had been measured and marked for use by an AStar, and more clearance is required for operations involving a Bell 212.
The Alpine Helicopters Bell 212 C-GAHV crashed during an approach to the top of a ski run at the 7800-ft. level in the Bugaboos, killing the pilot, injuring the two passengers and destroying the helicopter. They were approaching the landing site, intending to mark it for future heli-ski operations, when the left skid struck the mountain, causing the helicopter to roll. The main rotor impacted the surface and the blades and hub broke free of the mast. The blades then cut through the tail boom and smashed into the cockpit, killing the pilot. The helicopter remained upright, and the two passengers escaped from the helicopter with minor injuries. One of the passengers called the lodge ona hand-held radio and another company helicopter responded, rescuing the survivors. The weather was good with clear sky, light winds and a temperature of -100C. The landing site was in a shaded area and, as it approached the helicopter entered an area of recirculating snow caused by the rotor wash. The lack of definition in the shaded area and the snowball effect may have been a factor in the accident.
The Quantum Bell 206 C-GTNX landed in below the Super Bowl 15 miles west of Terrace, B.C. after dropping heliskiers. A skid broke through the snow and the helicopter rolled onto its side. The pilot was onboard alone at the time of the accident but was not hurt. A company helicopter airlifted the pilot to Terrace.
The AS 350 B1 C-GPTK pilot pulled pitch for takeoff, entered and lost visual contact with the ground in his own re-circulating snow, hit the snow covered terrain and rolled near Blue River. The impact knocked the pilot out and since he was the only occupant — he had just dropped off his load of skiers — he was on his own. He regained consciousness a few seconds later to the sound of the low-rotor/engine out tones. It was very fortunate that the pilot regained consciousness since the helicopter was now on fire. The pilot was able to evacuate on his own. The 350 was destroyed in the post-crash fire.
The Bell 205 C-GPWS with 12 heliskiers and one pilot encountered white out conditions near Revelstoke and as a result the aircraft rolled over. No injuries.
The Bell 205A-1 C-GPWT approached the snow-covered landing area NE of Revelstoke, the tail rotor struck a tree, causing much noise, a shudder and a violent yaw to the right. As the skids contacted the ground, the main rotor hit a snow ridge. The helicopter stayed upright, suffering no further damage. There were no injuries to the people on the ground, but the pilot suffered a neck injury. Immediately after departing, having dropped off a load of heli-skiers, the pilot radioed the guide that he was returning because of bad weather. The tail rotor hit a tree during the descending turn back to the landing area.
The Bell 212 C-FAHZ was conducting heliskiing operations in the Bobby Burns ski area, approximately 30 nm southwest of Golden, BC. The helicopter had taken off from the Bobby Burns lodge with the pilot and 12 passengers on board. As the aircraft was touching down at 8,200 feet asl, the main rotor blades contacted a rock face, destroying about 6 inches of each blade. The helicopter remained upright and there were no injuries. Weather and visibility were not considered to have been factors in the accident.
The Bell 212 helicopter, C-GEEC, was carrying out heli-skiing operations near Whistler on the Spearman Glacier in strong downflowing winds. During take off from the toe of the Glacier with one pilot and eleven skiers, as the helicopter turned downwind it settled and the skids struck the snow in a level attitude. Before the helicopter came to a stop it turned over and came to rest on its right side. There was no fire and the passengers and pilot were able to escape with only minor injuries.
The Kananaskis Mountain Helicopters AS350B2 C-GBHP crashed 14 NW Bowser Lake. On approach to the glacier to pickup heliskiers the pilot lost visual reference due to fog but could still see the skiers. On landing the tail struck the glacier and departed the aircraft, the cab landed on the glacier and rolled. Only the pilot onboard and was uninjured. The pilot and heliskiers were picked up by another helicopter and taken to nearby Last Frontier Heliskiing lodge.
The Alpine Helicopters Bell 206L-3, C-GALJ, was engaged in heliskiing operations at Trout lake near Revelstoke, flagging areas for another helicopter to drop off skiers. The helicopter was landing on a 7,500-foot dome when it suddenly pitched up and rolled over, sustaining substantial damage. Heavy snow was falling at the time. There was no fire. None of the three occupants were injured.
The Skyline Helicopters Bell 212 helicopter C-GSLZ reportedly encountered white-out conditions while engaged in heliskiing operations and attempting to land in mountainous terrain to drop off skiers. The pilot sustained minor injuries. The ten passengers were not injured.
The Bell 407 helicopter, operated by Vancouver Island Helicopters for Mike Wigley Heliskiing, was on short final to drop off heliskiers 8 nm SE of Blue River, BC when the engine lost power. The helicopter landed hard and the main rotor blades struck the vertical fins on the horizontal stabilizer. The pilot and ski guide (seated in the front left) sustained back injuries but the five passengers were uninjured.
The Slave Lake Helicopters AS 350 B2 helicopter, C-GBGT, was one of two helicopters conducting heliskiing operations for Last Frontier Heliskiing. A group of skiers had been dropped off and the helicopter was proceeding down, on the other side of the mountain ridge (due to localized and variable weather conditions) to the pick-up point. While en route, the helicopter encountered marginal VMC and attempted to descend through a break in the cloud. The helicopter contacted snow covered terrain and began rolling down the slope. The pilot, the only person on board, released his seat belt and was ejected as the helicopter continued to roll. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter received substantial damage. The on-board ELT (406) activated and was turned off by the pilot. There was no fire. The ski lodge utilized a GPS tracking system to monitor the heli-ski operations and was aware of an incident immediately. Rescue was accomplished within 40 minutes.
The Capitale Helicoptere AS350-B3e, C-GBSU, operating for Lost Frontier Heliskiing, had just dropped off skiers at the top of Zamboni run, about 7 nm west of the Bell 2 Lodge. During lift-off the pilot lost visual reference in blowing snow. The rotors struck terrain and the helicopter rolled over. There were no injuries but the helicopter was substantially damaged.
The Alpine Helicopters Bell 206B helicopter, C-GALR, was providing heliskiing support services on Mt Chapman (Revelstoke, 55 nm N). The pilot plus one guide were on board to deliver a catered mountain-side lunch service to customers skiing on the mountain. The helicopter set down right side low on the chosen sloping landing site and remained partially supported by the rotor. The pilot attempted to move to a different site nearby, but a skid dug into the snow and the helicopter entered a dynamic rollover condition and fell to the ground on its right-hand side. There was no fire nor were there injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged.
The Blackcomb AStar AS350 B3, C-GZBA was approaching to land in a snow covered area at Tenquille Lake,BC. The pilot was slowly hovering the helicopter in difficult lighting conditions when the main rotor struck something. The pilot completed the landing, shut down the engine and found the main rotor blades badly damaged.
The Alpine Helicopters Bell 407, C-FAHI, was conducting heliski operations with one pilot and five passengers aboard. During a run-on downwind landing, the main rotor contacted the helicopters tail boom. The tail rotor driveshaft cover was damaged and the tail rotor driveshaft was creased. The main rotor blades also struck the aircraft’s vertical winglets. The helicopter's occupants were not injured.
The Mustang Helicopters Bell 205A1, C-GLVI, was conducting heli-skiing operations 9 nautical miles south east of Revelstoke, BC. The Pilot was repositioning 12 passengers from the bottom to the top of the Ghosts Drimie ski run. Upon departure, the Pilot elected to take-off downhill and downwind due to the terrain. The aircraft started to settle as it transited across a field and entered a 'snowball' at which time the pilot lost visual reference. The main rotor blades struck a tree and the helicopter touched down in the snow, remaining upright. There was substantial damage to the helicopter but there were no injuries.
An Alpine Helicopters Bell 212 helicopter N215KA, was carrying out remote heli-skiing operations about 15 nautical miles east of Nakusp, BC. The pilot was attempting to land on a marked landing site on a ski run called "Nicole". This was the second landing of the day at this location; the helicopter was carrying 10 guests, 2 guides and the pilot. The first approach was abandoned due to skiers from a previous group waiting on the landing site. On the second approach, visibility was reduced in fog and blown-up snow. The pilot still had the site markers and skiers in sight when it became apparent that the helicopter could not come to a complete hover and touch down would result in a run-on landing. The helicopter touched down on the pilot's right-hand side due to skiers near the left side of the site. With some forward momentum and sloping ground to the right, the helicopter’s right-side skid dug into the soft snow, resulting in the helicopter rolling over to the right side. The pilot pulled both fire T-handles and exited the aircraft while the guides were assisting guests out from the back seats. There were no injuries or fire.
A TRK Helicopters AS350 BA C-FBLW, was operated under contract to Skeena Heli-Ski from the Bear Creek Lodge, BC. The flight was returning to base camp in the late afternoon with a pilot and 6 passengers on board. As the pilot was maneuvering the helicopter close to the steepening terrain, the cyclic control was moved forward. The nose of the helicopter pitched down and the speed increased to Vne (+/-). The pilot then moved the cyclic back and left, however the helicopter rolled right and pitched up. The cyclic stick was difficult to move, and the helicopter collided with terrain on a steep snow covered slope. The main rotor blades cut a swath through the deep snowpack on the left side, and continued to turn until the pilot shut down the engine and applied the rotor brake. All occupants appeared uninjured and expedited egress to the left side due to the steep, downhill slope on the right side. The helicopter was substantially damaged, but the ELT was not triggered to send out an emergency signal.
2017-01-04C-FALA, a Bell 407 aircraft was conducting heli-skiing operation from Adamants Lodge, BC. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, elected to land the helicopter at an unprepared site. When the collective was lowered after landing, the main rotor blades cone angle decreased and the blades impacted a snowbank. The helicopter remained upright, however sustained substantial damage. There was no fire and the pilot was not injured. The ELT did not activate.
The Yellowhead Helicopters AS 350-B2 C-GPHR, was conducting a heli-ski operation from Blue River, BC. A Bell 212 helicopter, also transporting skiers to the same location, departed Blue River at the same time. Upon arriving at the landing area, the pilot of C-GPHR decided to land at an unmarked, unprepared site in order to leave the marked, prepared landing site for the Bell 212. During the landing, the pilot of C-GPHR lost visual reference in a whiteout created by the main rotor's downwash. C-GPHR drifted sideways approximately 50 feet before the left skid touched down, and the helicopter rolled onto its roof. The ski guide, seated in the front left seat, was seriously injured. The pilot and the four passengers were not injured. The helicopter was substantially damaged, however there was no fire. The ELT did not activate.
A Silver King Helicopters Inc. AS350 BA C-FLIZ, , was conducting heli-ski operations north east of Golden, BC. The helicopter departed Heather Mountain Lodge with the pilot and 5 passengers on board for the south west side of Kinbasket Lake. On approach, approximately 6 feet from the ground, the helicopter experienced a reduction in tail rotor effectiveness. The helicopter began to rotate to the left and the collective was reduced to stop the rotation. The helicopter landed while rotating and the vertical fin and tail rotor impacted a tree. There were no injuries; there was substantial damage to the vertical fin, tail rotor and the tail boom.
The Access Helicopters AS 350 B3 C-FTSH, was engaged in Last Frontier Heli-skiing with a pilot and four passengers aboard was on approach to land when they encountered 'white-out' conditions in close proximity to snow-covered ground. The helicopter was perceived to move forward and the pilot corrected with aft cyclic, the main rotor contacted and severed the tail boom. Although the helicopter sustained substantial damage, it remained upright and all egressed without injury.
The West Coast Helicopters C-GBWC, AS 350 B-2 was conducting heli-skiing operations support in the Bella Coola, BC area. While manoeuvering to land at a spot, the main rotor blades struck terrain, resulting in substantial damage to the aircraft. The aircraft remained upright and there were no injuries to the pilot and 5 passengers. The flag marking the specific landing area was not visible to the pilot, as it had been covered with snow, which was uneven. The pilot contacted the operator via satellite phone, another helicopter was dispatched to the site and all were returned to the heli-skiing base of operations.