No issues found with 6abc’s Chopper 6 engine after crash, NTSB says in preliminary report

The NTSB preliminary report, released Wednesday, included a detailed description of the chopper's final flight and the crash site.


6abc's Chopper 6 helicopter. (6abc)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report as its investigation into the crash of Chopper 6 continues.

Chopper 6 crashed in the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, New Jersey around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

It was coming back to Philadelphia after an assignment in Galloway Township, New Jersey when it went down.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The two crew members on board, 68-year-old pilot Monroe Smith and 45-year-old photographer Chris Dougherty, were killed in the crash.

The NTSB preliminary report, released Wednesday, included a detailed description of the chopper’s final flight and the crash site.

Flight assignment for Chopper 6 before the crash

Chopper 6 launched from Northeast Philadelphia Airport around 7:23 p.m. and headed to an assignment in Galloway Township, New Jersey.

After hovering for about 20 minutes, Smith was cleared to leave by the Action News assignment desk and he began flying back to Philadelphia.

The NTSB said at about 8:01 p.m. the helicopter drifted off its flight track. Its final position was recorded at 8:03 p.m.

“According to a witness, around this time, he observed a solid light traveling quickly at a steep angle, while another witness observed what he described as a ‘giant orange ball’ descending into the forest,” the NTSB report reads.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

At about 10 p.m., Action News notified U.S. Helicopters, the company that owns the aircraft, after assignment editors were unable to reach the crew for another assignment.

After confirming the helicopter had not returned to Northeast Philadelphia Airport, state and local authorities were contacted.

The wreckage was located around 12:05 a.m. on Dec. 20 in a densely wooded area of Wharton State Forest near Hammonton, N.J.

No problems found with Chopper 6 engine

Most of the helicopter was destroyed in the crash and resulting fire, though the engine was recovered.

The NTSB said there were no issues with the engine that would have prevented the chopper from normal flight.

The debris field extended some 600 feet, investigators said.

Investigators say the chopper was on its third flight of the day and had been refueled before the accident.

Its last airworthiness inspection was conducted on the day of the crash.

The helicopter, built in 2013, had some 7,300 total hours of operation.

Smith, the pilot, last had a medical certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on July 18, 2023. At the time he reported he had accrued 8,597 total flight hours.

Final Chopper 6 crash report could take more than a year

The NTSB secured the wreckage as the investigation continues.

The preliminary report did not include any possible cause of the crash.

That could be part of the final report from the NTSB, which is expected to be released in the next 18 months.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal