The wreckage of an Airbus Helicopters AS350-B3e. Photo courtesy of the NTSB
A survivor's statements in a Sept. 28 crash in Alaska of an Airbus Helicopters AS350 indicate the owner/pilot may have been practicing an autorotation before the fatal crash. The pilot, 42-year-old Josh Pepperd, and two others, including the pilot's 11-year-old son were killed. The pilot's 14-year-old son survived the crash.
"The accident flight departed Juneau and proceeded west over the mountains 3,000 to 4,000 ft agl and then north along the coast line about 500 to 700 ft agl," according to the NTSB preliminary accident report released last week. "In a post-accident interview, the surviving passenger stated that the pilot 'reached down and rolled the throttle off.' He added that the pilot left the collective up and the helicopter entered a free fall from about 500 ft agl, then about 30 ft agl he increased the throttle again."
Family members of the pilot said that the purpose of the trip was to deliver the helicopter from the Airbus Helicopters factory in Grand Prairie, Texas, to Anchorage. The pilot was to drop off the left seat co-pilot in Wasilla, then proceed to Anchorage.
Autorotation landings typically endanger expensive aircraft equipment. Because of this, pilots often elect to practice engine recovery before touching down.
"We remain immensely saddened by what has happened, and our thoughts remain with everyone affected by this tragedy," Airbus told R&WI. The company was not able to provide further comment on the ongoing investigation.