NTSB: Pilot on Little Nell fishing trip knew of potential wire hazards
The Little Nell hotel has cut ties with a helicopter charter service that had to make an emergency landing after it clipped a wire on a fly-fishing trip in July, an official confirmed Thursday.
Also Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a factual basis for the mishap, which happened at approximately 5:30 p.m. July 3 near Somerset in the North Fork Valley. The report said the pilot knew of the wires and had discussed their potential for danger with the fishing guides.
The Eurocopter model helicopter, which had made two flights to a private ranch to drop passengers off for a fishing trip, was on its second flight back to Aspen when it struck a power line.
“The pilot stated he had seen some wires in the area and had a discussion with the local fishing guides about the location of wires in the area, how dangerous the wires were and how hard they were to see,” the NTSB report says. “The pilot reported that as he was preparing to depart with the last load of passengers, one of the fishing guides asked if he could video the helicopter for their website. The pilot reported he agreed and discussed where he would fly so the helicopter could be filmed. The pilot took off and flew a pass for the video. He stated he was flying toward the mountains when he heard a ‘small ting.’ The pilot reported he knew he hit a wire from the sound, but he did not see it.”
The pilot then made an “uneventful off-airport landing in the nearest clearing,” the report said. No one was injured, but two of the chopper’s “main rotor blades were beyond repair. At least two of the Fenestron (fantail) blades were beyond repair and the entire Fenestron stator blade assembly needed to be replaced,” said the report, which noted that the NTSB did not send investigators to the scene but based its conclusion on information from the Federal Aviation Administration and the pilot.
The helicopter was owned by Jayhawk Inc. of Somerset. Colorado Secretary of State records link Jayhawk to 7X Cattle Co. LLC, whose chairman William Koch has listed his Castle Creek Road home for $100 million.
Little Nell spokeswoman May Selby, in an email to The Aspen Times, said the five-star hotel, which is owned by Aspen Skiing Co., has not worked with the service, Aspen Heli Charter, since the incident.
An official with Aspen Heli Charter declined comment Thursday.
Little Nell continues to provide the fly-fishing trips via helicopters, Selby said, but with a different carrier.
“The Little Nell does offer helicopter fly-fishing trips, though through a different company,” Selby said. “And these are third-party outfitters, so it is their inventory. We can’t speak to the number of helicopters available.”
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