Eurocopter AS 350D, Avalon, Calif., May 24, 2008–N67GE, operated by Island Express Helicopters under Part 135, crashed while landing at Santa Catalina island. The commercial-certified pilot, a company employee and a passenger were killed and three other passengers were seriously injured.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud pop and seeing flames emanating from the back of the engine before the helicopter crashed and burned. A surviving passenger said that just after the loud pop, the pilot told them that he was going to autorotate.
The helicopter’s original Turbomeca engine had been replaced in 2001 with a Honeywell LTS101-600-A3. Examination of the wreckage showed the engine case remained intact, while fracture damage was noted to four consecutive power turbine blades that remained attached to the power turbine wheel. An additional examination by Honeywell revealed more fatigue cracks in the pressure side of the airfoil in two other blades. Metallurgic tests showed the blades had not been exposed to over-temperature conditions.