NTSB Identification: ERA16LA098
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, January 29, 2016 in Shoals, WV
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER FRANCE EC 130 B4, registration: N133HN
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On January 29, 2016, at 1303 eastern standard time, a Eurocopter France EC130 B4, N133HN, operated by Air Methods Corporation, was substantially damaged when the left rear entry door departed the airframe while airborne in the vicinity of Shoals, West Virginia. The commercial pilot and two medical flight crewmembers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The helicopter was operating on a company visual flight rules flight plan from Cabell Huntington Hospital Heliport (WV27), Huntington, West Virginia, to a helipad at Three Rivers Hospital, Louisa, Kentucky. The positioning flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135.
According to the pilot, due to weight limitations, only the flight nurse and the specialty nurse were going, and the medic stayed behind. After a flight briefing and exterior check, the pilot took his seat and began his interior checks while the two nurses finished their walk around inspection. After they completed their inspection, they took their seats with the flight nurse in the right rear seat and the specialty nurse in the left rear seat, behind the pilot. A "normal" startup occurred and the helicopter departed WV27 at 1258.
In cruise flight, about 5 minutes after takeoff, the pilot felt and heard an increase of wind in the cockpit. He scanned both front windows to see if they were ajar and, as he faced straight ahead, he heard and felt a rush of air, thinking that the left rear sliding door had opened. As the pilot turned to look, he heard a "whoosh" and saw what he thought was a clipboard depart the helicopter and angle away from the tail (about the 7 o'clock position).
At that point, the pilot slowed the helicopter and instructed the specialty nurse to try and close the door. She seemed to be having some difficulty, so the pilot suggested that the door may have "locked back" and to use the lock release so she could slide the door forward to the closed position. After a few seconds, the specialty nurse announced that the door was missing, and that's when the pilot realized that the clipboard he saw was in fact the door.
With no abnormal flight characteristics, the pilot then diverted the helicopter to nearby Tri-State Airport (HTS), Huntington, West Virginia, and landed uneventfully. After shutdown, a visual inspection revealed damage to the left transmission hatch, one rotor blade, and the plastic sliding door guide on the left side baggage door.
The flight nurse also noted that she observed the specialty nurse slide and latch the door before takeoff. During the flight, when she heard a loud wind noise, she looked left to see that the door was open. After the specialty nurse received instructions from the pilot about unlocking the door ("when it opens, it locks for safety") the specialty nurse looked back and stated, "it's gone."
According to a maintenance log notation, on September 20, 2015, maintenance was completed in response to, "left rear sliding door would not open."
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Charleston FSDO-09