Today in History – August 27, 1990 – Stevie Ray Vaughn Changes Places and Dies in Helicopter Crash.

27 August 1990: ”

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.” (1)

Source (1): Robert Swope at

Bryan R. Swopes grew up in Southern California in the 1950s–60s, near the center of America’s aerospace industry. He has had a life-long interest in aviation and space flight. Bryan is a retired commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor.

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