‘Accident Pilot Seemed Distracted And Was Not Himself’
Location: Kodiak, AK Accident Number: ANC21LA020
Date & Time: March 2, 2021, 15:39 Local Registration: N1767
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER CO R66 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal
On March 2, 2021, about 1539 Alaska standard time, a Robinson Helicopter Company R66 helicopter, N1767, is presumed destroyed after it impacted ocean waters about 70 miles north of Kodiak, Alaska. The pilot, the sole occupant, is presumed fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.
According to the pilot’s wife, her husband owned Kodiak Helicopters, LLC which owned and operated the accident helicopter. She stated that he had requested the use of the helicopter from a company employee to make a day trip to see family located in Kodiak. She added that they had just returned from an out of state trip, and after arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, her husband went directly to the Merrill Field Airport (MRI) Anchorage, where the helicopter was located.
A pilot for Kodiak Helicopters reported that on the day of the accident, he was contacted earlier in the day by the accident pilot, telling him that he needed the helicopter for the next few days, and he told him to cancel any previously scheduled charter flights. According to the Kodiak Helicopters pilot, once the accident pilot arrived at MRI, he was asked to fill the helicopter’s fuel tank. He added that he had brief contact with the accident pilot while unloading his personal gear from the helicopter, but that the accident pilot seemed distracted and was not himself. Just before departure, the accident pilot commented to the Kodiak Helicopters pilot that he wanted to be in Kodiak, and with his family, when a local news story involving him was scheduled to publish.
According to the Kodiak Helicopters pilot, the flight departed from MRI at 1406 with a planned destination of the Kodiak Airport (ADQ) Kodiak. The Kodiak Helicopters pilot said he was able to view the helicopter’s en route progress in-flight via Spidertracks (a real-time tracking system), and at 1539, the helicopter’s Spidertracks data stopped in an area south of the Barron Islands over the open ocean waters.
Shortly after the Spidertracks data stopped recording, inquiries were made to see if the helicopter had arrived in Kodiak. Unable to locate the missing helicopter, family and friends contacted the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) to initiate an organized search for the missing helicopter. An FAA Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued, and an extensive search was launched.
During the search and rescue (SAR) operation, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) dispatched a rescue helicopter that located an inflated yellow pop-out float believed to be from the accident helicopter. The USCG stated that an emergency locator transmitter beacon was not received from the accident helicopter. The search continued with additional SAR assets; however, minimal debris believed to be from the helicopter were observed in the water, and the search was suspended on March 3, 2021 at about 1130.
A review of the archived Spidertracks data revealed that the last recorded data point was at 1539, as the track passed between Ushagat Island and West Amatuli Islands, at an altitude of 394 ft, heading 186° and at a groundspeed of 132 kts.
A review of FAA data indicated that there were no preflight weather briefings or air traffic services provided to the pilot.
Days after the accident, an air charter company based in Kodiak discovered debris on a beach near Afognak Island, Alaska. The debris was recovered and found to be parts of the helicopter’s float, landing skid, and fuselage structure. No other wreckage has been located at this time.