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NTSB releases preliminary report into helicopter crash near Santa Barbara

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report into the May 5 helicopter crash at the La Cumbre County Club golf course.

While most of the information in the report was widely reported by the press, it does give an insight into the pilot’s decision making and paints a picture of the events leading up to the crash.

The helicopter was registered to Spitzer Helicopter LLC and operated by Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours. On May 5, the helicopter, along with its two passengers, took off from the Santa Barbara Airport for a city tour that included a roundtrip flight from the airport to the Santa Barbara Zoo area.

On the return, the weather has not improved so the pilot requested a special Visual Flight Rules (VFR) clearance to land.

“The airport controllers directed the pilot to hold outside of the airport’s airspace due to landing traffic, and the pilot circled the city for about 10 minutes until the landing request was granted,” the report says.

The pilot began heading back towards the airport along U.S. Highway 101 when he noticed the engine began to lose partial power.

The report continues, “He reset the clutch actuator circuit breaker while evaluating his landing options. He began to maneuver the helicopter for landing at a golf course, rather than the highway or congested areas below, and a few seconds later the helicopter lost all power.”

Read the full report here.

An inspection of the aircraft revealed it was missing the engine’s number 3 cylinder head assembly and piston, which were discovered a quarter mile north of the wreckage location the following day by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.

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