(Pilot) And The Right Seat Passenger/Observer Detected Smoke In The Cockpit/Cabin Area

Location: San Andreas, CA Accident Number: WPR20LA228
Date & Time: 07/20/2020, 0938 PDT Registration: N745BW
Aircraft: MD Helicopter 600 Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Aerial Observation

On July 20, 2020, about 0938 Pacific daylight time, a McDonnell Douglas 600N helicopter, N745BW, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near San Andreas, California. The pilot and two passenger/observers were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

In a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge, the pilot reported that while performing low-altitude inflight powerline visual assessment operations about 250 ft above ground level (agl), and while on the second circuit of the morning, he and the right seat passenger/observer detected smoke in the cockpit/cabin area.

Subsequently, the pilot elected to make an emergency descent, to an open area, during which at about 100 ft agl, the engine experienced a total power failure. The helicopter subsequently landed hard, during which the right skid failed. Shortly after the pilot and the two passenger/observers successfully egressed the helicopter uninjured. A fire erupted, which consumed the aircraft.

The helicopter was recovered the following day to a secured storage facility for future examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov