Tag Archives: Bell Model 206B-3 JetRanger III

27 August 1990

Bell 206B JetRanger N16933, destroyed on impact, 27 August 1990. All five aboard, including famed guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, were killed. (NTSB)

27 August 1990: Four Bell JetRanger helicopters operated by Omniflight Helicopters Inc., arrived at a golf course near Elkhorn, Wisconsin, to pick up various musical artists after a concert at the Alpine Valley Music Theater and to return them to Chicago. They departed at 0040 hours, CDT.

The number three helicopter, Bell JetRanger III (Model 206B-3) serial number 2338, civil registration N16933, was piloted by Jeffrey William Brown of East Chicago, Indiana.

A last minute addition to the passenger complement was electric blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. Another passenger, Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie Vaughan, switched places with him and boarded a different aircraft.

A first-quarter Moon rose at 12:12 a.m. CST. It was very dark, with thick, patchy fog. The temperature/dew point spread was such that the pilots had to continually wipe heavy condensation from the windshields. Another of the Omniflight pilots later said that the stars were visible when looking up, but that horizontal visibility was variable, with a maximum of about one mile.

Brown, who was not familiar with the area, took off and after about 300 yards, his helicopter banked sharply to the southeast and disappeared into the fog.

The JetRanger impacted a 150-foot hill (45 meters), 0.6 miles away (1 kilometer). It was completely destroyed. All on board were killed. In addition to Brown and Vaughan, the others were Bobby Brooks, Nigel Browne and Colin Smythe, members of Eric Clapton’s tour.

Although the weather was such that the pilot could have reasonably expected to encounter instrument meteorological conditions, Brown did not have an Instrument-Helicopter rating and the Bell 206-series helicopters were not certified for instrument flight.

Below is the accident summary from the National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CHI90MA244 .

The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 43569.
Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Monday, August 27, 1990 in ELKHORN, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/11/1992
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N16933
Injuries: 5 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

FOUR HELICOPTERS WERE BEING USED AT NIGHT TO TRANSPORT A CONCERT GROUP FROM A GOLF COURSE AREA NEAR ELKHORN, WI, TO CHICAGO, IL. AS THE THIRD HELICOPTER (N16933) WAS DEPARTING, IT REMAINED AT A LOWER ALTITUDE THAN THE OTHERS, AND THE PILOT TURNED SOUTHEASTERLY TOWARD RISING TERRAIN. SUBSEQUENTLY, THE HELICOPTER CRASHED ON HILLY TERRAIN ABOUT 3/5 MI FROM THE TAKEOFF POINT. ELEVATION OF THE CRASH SITE WAS ABOUT 100 FT ABOVE THE GOLF COURSE AND 50 FT BELOW THE SUMMIT OF THE HILL. NO PREIMPACT PART FAILURE OR MALFUNCTION WAS FOUND DURING THE INVESTIGATION. PILOTS OF THE OTHER HELICOPTERS REPORTED VFR FLIGHT CONDITIONS WITH SOME FOG. A GROUND WITNESS NEAR THE CRASH SITE REPORTED HAZE AND GROUND FOG OF VARYING INTENSITY WITH PATCHES OF LOW CLOUDS, BUT SAID STARS COULD BE SEEN THROUGH THE FOG.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

IMPROPER PLANNING/DECISION BY THE PILOT, AND HIS FAILURE TO ATTAIN ADEQUATE ALTITUDE BEFORE FLYING OVER RISING TERRAIN AT NIGHT. FACTORS RELATED TO THE ACCIDENT WERE: DARKNESS, FOG, HAZE, RISING TERRAIN, AND THE LACK OF VISUAL CUES THAT WERE AVAILABLE TO THE PILOT.

Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 August 1982–22 July 1983

Dick Smith’s Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III, VH-DIK, at Ball’s Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack, 12 miles southeast of Lord Howe Island in the South Pacific Ocean. (Dick Smith Collection)

22 July 1983: Richard Harold (“Dick”) Smith landed his Bell JetRanger III helicopter, VH-DIK, at the Bell Helicopter Hurst Heliport (0TE2), in Hurst, Texas, United States of America. He had completed the first solo around-the-world flight by helicopter.

Dick Smith, with his wife, “Pip,” being interviewed at Hurst, Texas. His Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III, VH-DIK, is in the background. (Bell Helicopter TEXTRON)

352 days earlier, 5 August 1982, Dick Smith had departed from Hurst on an eastbound circumnavigation. He had purchased the helicopter specifically to make this flight, and named it Australian Explorer. The aircraft, as standard production Bell Model 206B-3, serial number 3653, had been built at the Bell Helicopter TEXTRON plant in Hurst. It was registered  VH-DIK by the Australia Department of Aviation, 2 June 1982.

The JetRanger was equipped with a Collins LRN 70 VLF/Omega navigation system, and a Collins autopilot. A larger fuel tank was installed.

Smith’s journey was made in three major segments:

Leg 1: Hurst, Texas, U.S.A., to London, England, from 5 August to 19 August 1982

Leg 2: London, England, to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 13 September to 3 October 1982

Leg 3: Sydney, N.S.W., Australia, to Hurst, TX, U.S.A., 25 May to 22 July  1983

The total distance flown was reported in FLIGHT as 32,258 miles (51,914 kilometers). The total flight time was over 260 hours.

Smith’s circumnavigation had also included the first solo flight by helicopter across the Atlantic Ocean. During the journey, he set five separate Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for Speed Over a Recognized Course. ¹

Dick Smith’s Bell Model 206B JetRanger III, VH-DIK (c/n 3653), Australian Explorer. (Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences)

The Bell JetRanger is a 5-place, single-engine light civil helicopter based on the Bell Helicopter’s unsuccessful OH-4 entrant for the U.S. Army’s Light Observation Helicopter (LOH, or “loach”) contract. It is flown by a single pilot in the right front seat. Dual flight controls can be installed for a second pilot. The helicopter was certified for VFR flight, but could be modified for instrument flight.

The JetRanger is 38 feet, 9.5 inches (11.824 meters) long, overall. On standard skid landing gear the overall height is 9 feet, 4 inches (2.845 meters). The Bell 206A has an empty weight of approximately 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms), depending on installed equipment. The maximum gross weight is 3,200 pounds (1,451.5 kilograms). With an external load suspended from the cargo hook, the maximum gross weight is increased to 3,350 pounds (1,519.5 kilograms).

Three view drawing of the Bell Model 206A/B JetRanger with dimensions. (Bell Helicopter TEXTRON)

The two-bladed main rotor is semi-rigid and under-slung, a common feature of Bell’s main rotor design. It has a diameter of 33 feet, 4.0 inches (10.160 meters) and turns counter-clockwise (seen from above) at 394 r.p.m. (100% NR). (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The rotor blade has a chord of 1 foot, 1.0 inches (0.330 meter) and 10° negative twist. The airfoil is symmetrical. The cyclic and collective pitch controls are hydraulically-boosted.

The two-bladed tail rotor assembly is also semi-rigid and is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It turns at 2,550 r.p.m., clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor diameter is 5 feet, 6.0 inches (1.676 meters).

The turboshaft engine is mounted above the roof of the fuselage, to the rear of the main transmission. Output shafts lead forward to the transmission and aft to the tail rotor 90° gear box. The transmission and rotor mast are mounted tilting slightly forward and to the left. This assists in the helicopter’s lift off to a hover, helps to offset its translating tendency, and keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude during cruise flight.

A vertical fin is attached at the aft end of the tail boom. The fin is offset 4° to the right to unload the tail rotor in cruise flight. Fixed horizontal stabilizers with an inverted asymmetric airfoil are attached to the tail boom. In cruise flight, these provide a downward force that keeps the passenger cabin in a near-level attitude.

The 206A was powered by an Allison 250-C18 turboshaft engine (T63-A-700) which produced a maximum of 317 shaft horsepower at 104% N1, 53,164 r.pm. The improved Model 206B JetRanger and 206B-2 JetRanger II used a 370 horsepower 250–C20 engine, and the Model 206B-3 JetRanger III had 250-C20B, -C20J or -C20R engines installed, rated at 420 shaft horsepower at 105% N1, (53,519 r.p.m.). Many 206As were upgraded to 206Bs and they are sometimes referred to as a “206A/B.” The Allison 250-C20B has a 7-stage compressor section with 6-stage axial-flow stages, and 1 centrifugal-flow stage. The 4-stage axial-flow turbine has a 2-stage gas producer (N1) and 2-stage power turbine (N2). These were very light weight engines, ranging from just 141 to 173 pounds (64.0 to 78.5 kilograms).

The helicopter’s main transmission is limited to a maximum input of 317 shaft horsepower (100% Torque, 5-minute limit). The engine’s accessory gear unit reduces the output shaft speed to 6,016 r.p.m. N2, which is further reduced by the transmission’s planetary gears, and the tail rotor 90° gear box.

The JetRanger has a maximum speed, VNE, of 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour) up to 3,000 feet (914 meters). Its best rate of climb, VY, is at 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour) and best speed in autorotation (minimum rate of descent and maximum distance) is at 80 miles per hour (129 kilometers per hour), resulting in a glide ratio of about 4:1. The service ceiling is 13,500 feet (4,145 meters) with the helicopter’s gross weight above 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms), and 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) when below 3,000 pounds. The helicopter has a maximum range of 430 miles (692 kilometers).

Richard Harold (“Dick”) Smith, AO, 1999. (Rob Tuckwell/National Portrait Gallery 2012.216)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 2286, 2287, 2288, 10033 and 10272

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jerome Maitland Boyle, United States Army (28 May 1938–24 November 2011)

CW2 Jerry Boyle, Apache Troop, First of the Ninth, Air Cav, "hot refueling" (engine running, rotors turning) his Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter, somewhere along the Cambodian border, circa 1971. Jerry is the aircraft commander; his seat in the rear cockpit is empty. 1st Lt. Jeff Cromar, Jerry's co-pilot and gunner, is in the forward cockpit.
CW2 Jerry Boyle, Apache Troop, First of the Ninth, Air Cav, “hot refueling” (engine running, rotors turning) his Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter, somewhere along the Cambodian border, circa 1971. Jerry is the aircraft commander; his seat in the rear cockpit is empty. 1st Lt. Jeff Cromar, Jerry’s co-pilot and gunner, is in the forward cockpit. (Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry via facebook)
Jerry Boyle

In February 1984, I first met Jerome Maitland (“Jerry”) Boyle. I was a newly-hired commercial helicopter pilot for a Southern California-based Part 135 Air Taxi Commercial Operator. The company specialized in supporting range operations in the offshore Pacific Missile Test Center, headquartered at NAS Point Mugu (NTD). After an initial checkout in one of the company’s helicopters, the chief pilot told me, “Just follow Jerry. He’ll show you what to do.”

Jerry was a big man with reddish hair and a mustache. He was sort of hunched over from many years of sitting at the controls of a helicopter. He often wore a black, U.S. Army-issued, V-neck wool sweater over a white pilot’s shirt. I never saw him without a cup of coffee and a smoldering cigarette, even when flying. This had left him with a raspy voice and a chronic cough. Jerry was always cheerful, and had a great sense of humor, and he told great stories. He wore an Omega Speedmaster Professional wrist watch and drove a well-used white 1976 Corvette Stingray.

Several of Aspen Helicopters, Inc., aircraft on the flight line at Oxnard Airport (OXR), mid-1980s. (Bryan R. Swopes)

I did as instructed and followed Jerry’s Bell 206L LongRanger everywhere with my own helicopter as he showed me the ropes of dealing with Range Operations (“Plead Control”), transporting personnel and equipment to the numerous sites throughout the Range and California’s offshore Channel Islands. Most of our time was spent supporting the Surface Targets Directorate with their remotely-controlled World War II-era destroyers which were used as targets for anti-ship missiles. Jerry also taught me how to locate and recover the Northrop BQM-74 Chukar target drones that were used for aerial targets. After plucking them from the ocean, we returned the drones to NTD for servicing.

This photograph was taken from my helicopter while a talk a new pilot through a drone recovery in the Pacific Missile Test Range. During an actual recovery, we rarely found the ocean so calm. (U.S. Navy)
This photograph was taken from my helicopter while I talked a new pilot through a drone recovery out on the Pacific Missile Test Range. During an actual recovery operation, we rarely found the ocean so calm. (U.S. Navy)
After recovering a BQM-74 drone from teh Pacific Ocean, it is dropped off at NTD to be readied for its next flight. Jerry Boyle flew this helicopter, Bell 206B-3 JetRanger N5006Y, on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona. (U.S. Navy)
After recovering a BQM-74 drone from the Pacific Ocean, it is dropped off at NTD to be readied for its next flight. Jerry Boyle flew this helicopter, Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III N5006Y, with a “hot shot” helitack crew on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona. (U.S. Navy)

We flew other government contracts as well. We carried National Park Service employees and their guests out to the Channel Islands, and Federal government inspectors to oil drilling and production platforms on the outer continental shelf. We flew construction crews and materials to new radar and telemetry sites being built out on the range. We flew surveyors and fought fires all over the Western states and Alaska, the occasional medevac from remote locations, flew government SWAT teams on patrols of nuclear sites, carried sling loads and long-line, and all of the other things that are part of the life of a commercial helicopter pilot.

As the years passed, I gained more experience and became the company’s chief flight instructor, FAA-designated check airman and eventually, chief pilot. Jerry began looking to me for information and advice, and we always “crammed” together before a required check flight. Our relative positions within the company changed but our friendship didn’t. Even after he had retired and I worked elsewhere, we stayed in touch and spoke by telephone often.

Jerome Maitland Boyle was born in Los Angeles, California, 28 May 1938, the second son of Walter David Boyle, a civil engineer, and his wife, Marguerite E. Boyle. The family lived in a small rented home on N. Kenmore Avenue in the East Hollywood area of L.A. When Jerry was just three years old his father died and his mother moved the family moved to the San Fernando Valley, a few miles to the north.

By 1961, Jerry was a licensed private pilot and skydiver. He had moved to the beautiful Ojai Valley and was employed as a police officer for the City of San Buenaventura, California (or, more commonly, simply Ventura). He enjoyed the work and was a member of the California State Police Pistol Association. He won both the state and national championships. In 1965, he married Cathie L. Birch. They had two sons.

Jerry seems to have found an alternate weapon, a .30-caliber M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, the BAR. (Bullwhip Squadron Newsletter, May 2012, Page 24)
Jerry seems to have found an alternate weapon, a .30-caliber M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, the BAR. (Bullwhip Squadron Newsletter, May 2012, Page 24)

From 1961 to 1968, Jerry Boyle served in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he was trained as a combat medic. In 1969, Boyle was sworn into the United States Army as a warrant officer candidate and was sent for primary helicopter flight training at Fort Wolters, Texas, and then Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he underwent advanced training in the TH-13 Sioux (Bell Model 47) and learned to fly the legendary UH-1 Iroquois. (One of Jerry’s instructors at Fort Rucker, CW2 Barrie Turner, would later be a co-worker of ours.) After graduating, Warrant Officer Boyle was next assigned to Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia, to be trained on the new Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter.

By 1970, Jerry was in Vietnam where he was assigned to Troop A, 1st Squadron, 9th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). For the next few months he flew as the co-pilot/gunner in the Cobra’s forward cockpit. He learned to fly combat missions under the more experienced Cobra pilots. After six months Boyle was qualified as an aircraft commander. He named his personal Cobra Cathie’s Clown, after a popular ’60s song by the Everly Brothers, but in “honor” of his estranged and soon-to-be ex-wife, Cathie. He flew with the radio call-sign, “Apache Two-Four.” Jerry also flew with Troop B, call sign, “Sabre Two-Four.”

Jerry and Cathie divorced in 1973. He then met his “soul mate,” Andrea J. Balch. They were married in 1974. They continued to live in the Ojai Valley until Jerry retired from aviation.

Jerry Boyle told his own story of his first months of combat in Vietnam and Cambodia in a Random House book, Apache Sunrise, which was published in 1994. He had intended to follow with Apache Noon and Apache Sunset. But that was not to be.

Jerry Boyle (back row, center with cap, sunglasses and black v-neck sweater) and I (slighty taller, to Jerry's right) with Gerneral Dynamics and Surface Targets technicians waiting for our next flight atop San Nicolas Island, offshore Southern California. (Autor's collection)
Jerry Boyle (back row, center, with cap, sunglasses, white shirt and black V-neck sweater) and I (slighty taller, no hat, mustache, just to Jerry’s right) with General Dynamics and Surface Targets technicians waiting for our next flight, on the summit of San Nicolas Island, offshore Southern California, some time in the last century. . . The helicopter is a Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III, N39049. (General Dynamics)

Jerry retired to a cabin north of Kalispell, Montana, located on the bank of a stream, with a small dock and a black Labrador Retriever, where he could fish whenever he wanted. One of his closest friends from the Vietnam War flew a medical helicopter from the nearby regional hospital. But Jerry became ill, and he died at Whitefish, Montana, 24 November 2011.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jerome Maitland Boyle, United States Army, was awarded the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Bronze Stars, two Army Commendation Medals (Valor) and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Combat pilot and aircraft commander, Bell AH-1G Cobra; commercial pilot, Bell Model 206B-3 JetRanger, Bell 206L and L-1 LongRanger, Hughes Model 369 (“500”) helicopters; California state and National police pistol champion; fisherman, story teller, author, Apache Sunrise. My friend.

My well-worn copy of Jerry Boyle's 1994 book, APACHE SUNRISE (Ballantine Books). Jerry had planned to follow this with two sequels, "Apache Noon" and "Apache Sunset". This 259-page book is no longer in print, but Amazon.com, this morning, lists "1 New" for $131.02. "Apache" refers to Troop A, 1/9 Air Cav, a unit in which Jerry served. Later, as a civilian pilot, Jerry flew helitack missions with a "hot shot" crew of Apache firefighters from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Jerry wrote that they "taught me the true meaning of 'Apache'."
My well-worn copy of Jerry Boyle’s 1994 book, APACHE SUNRISE (Random House/Ballantine Books). This 259-page book is no longer in print, but Amazon.com, this morning, lists “3 New” for $52.32–$62.23. “Apache” refers to Troop A, 1/9 Air Cav, a unit in which Jerry served. Later, as a civilian pilot, Jerry flew helitack missions with a “hot shot” crew of Apache firefighters from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Jerry wrote that they “taught me the true meaning of ‘Apache’.”

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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