Accidents: September 2013
Eurocopter AS350B2, McCarran International Airport (KLAS), Las Vegas, Nev., July 22, 2013–The Eurocopter AS350 AStar was substantially damaged when its tail rotor struck the ground during a training flight at 7:15 a.m. Sundance Helicopters was operating the helicopter under Part 91 as a VFR instructional flight in VMC and carried a certified flight instructor and a pilot-rated student aboard. The two pilots told investigators that the flight was designed to transition the student to the accident helicopter, a model that was flown from the left-seat position as opposed to the standard right-seat position. The accident helicopter did not have dual controls and the instructor was seated in a rear seat, observing over the student’s shoulder.
According to the instructor, the initial pickup to a hover was over-controlled, and the helicopter moved fore and aft with a slight yaw. In the hover, the helicopter continued to move fore and aft and the yaw increased. The instructor reported he felt the helicopter was bouncing from skid to skid and fore and aft. The student said the nose of the aircraft yawed left, which she countered with right pedal as she picked the helicopter up to a hover. She reported that the helicopter started to “jump,” and she lowered the collective to put the helicopter on the ground. The jumping worsened and the instructor told her to pick the helicopter up, which she did. She said the helicopter was then uncontrollable and it hit the ground. She quickly shut down the engine.
Preliminary Report: Light Jet Overruns 5,000-foot Runway
Embraer Phenom 300, Flying Cloud Airport (KFCM), Eden Prairie, Minn., Aug. 5, 2013–Two pilots escaped injury when the Phenom 300 they were flying ran off the end of the runway and continued through a fence while landing at Flying Cloud Airport in a Minneapolissuburb just before 9 a.m. A police report said the jet, operated by Flight Options, came to rest on the shoulder of a road. The airplane departed Pittsburgh around 7:30 a.m. with only the two pilots aboard.
Preliminary Report: R66 Helicopter Accident Claims Five
Robinson R66, near Scranton, Pa., July 30, 2013–A Robinson R66 crashed approximately 20 miles west of Scranton, Pa., killing all five people aboard. The purpose of the flight between Tri-Cities Airport (KCZG) in Endicott, N.Y., and Jake Arner Memorial Airport (22N) in Lehighton, Pa., has not been released. Fort Meade, Md.-based Monumental Helicopters was operating the aircraft. The company provides aerial tours, fundraising, aerial photography and flight training. Witnesses in the crash locale said that weather at the time of the accident–approximately 10:20 p.m.–was poor, with fog and thunderstorms. The pilot reportedly lost contact with Wilkes-Barre control tower at Scranton International Airport (KAVP) shortly after announcing he was losing altitude. According to information from the Wyoming County coroner’s office, the only certified pilot aboard the R66 was also a flight instructor and was assumed to be the PIC at the time of the accident, although one victim held a valid student pilot certificate. Rescuers did not locate the wreckage of the helicopter until the morning after the accident.
Preliminary Report: King Air Crash Kills Two, Injures One
Beechcraft King Air B200, near Akureyri Airport (BIAR), Iceland, Aug. 5, 2013–A King Air 200 operating as an air ambulance flight from Reykjavík crashed at approximately 1:30 p.m. on a racetrack 2.8 miles northwest of the airport, killing one of the two pilots aboard, as well as the flight’s paramedic. The Iceland-registered aircraft, operated by Myflug Air, broke into pieces after it hit the ground and then caught fire.
Preliminary Report: Helicopter Pilot Injured During Forced Landing
Bell 206B-III, near Chualar, Calif., Aug. 4, 2013–The JetRanger was operating as a Part 137 agricultural flight for R&B Helicopters when it was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Chualar, Calif., at about 10:25 a.m. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, received only minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the local aerial application flight, which was operating from a remote supply truck nearby. The helicopter was returning to the truck for more chemicals when the pilot reported hearing a loud boom and experiencing a loss of main rotor rpm. The tailboom separated during the run-on landing and the fuselage subsequently rolled onto its side.
Preliminary Report: Sabre Pilot Loses Control After Landing
Rockwell NA-265-65, McCarran International Airport (KLAS), Las Vegas, Nev., July 5, 2013–A Mexican-registered Sabreliner was substantially damaged shortly after landing at Las Vegas at 6:45 p.m. when the pilots reported loss of all braking and steering shortly after taxiing clear of the active runway. Neither the two pilots nor any of the four passengers were injured during the incident.
Before landing, the pilots reported loss of main hydraulic system pressure but selected the auxiliary hydraulic system and continued the approach. During the landing roll the pilot turned onto a taxiway about two-thirds of the way down the runway. Once on the taxiway, the captain reported he was unable to stop or steer the airplane and it proceeded to cross a parallel runway and then traveled into a grass field, where it struck a metal beam in a drainage area. The Sabreliner’s left wing was substantially damaged. The airplane was recovered to a secure storage facility on the airport for further examination.
Preliminary Report: Pilot Killed in Helicopter External Load Accident
Bell UH-1H, near Dove Creek, Colo., July 16, 2013–A Bell UH-1H was substantially damaged at 9:55 a.m. after hitting the ground near Dove Creek, Colo. The sole-occupant pilot was killed. The helicopter, registered to BVDS Inc., was operating under Part 133 during a seismic survey operation. VMC prevailed for the flight, which departed from a staging area near Dove Creek just a few minutes before the crash. Witnesses said the pilot flew inbound to their location, hoisting a basket load with a long line. The pilot overshot the intended drop site and the basket load hit the ground, after which the 150-foot line fell straight down onto the basket. At about the same time, the helicopter began a series of abrupt maneuvers and subsequently hit the ground in a steep left bank.
The weather at Cortez Municipal Airport (KCEZ), Cortez, Colo., located 21 miles south of the accident site, was reported as northwest wind at four knots, overcast clouds at 8,500 feet and visibility of 10 miles.
Final Report: MU-2 Pilot Loses Control of Aircraft on Landing
Mitsubishi MU-2B-26A, Princeton (2MO), Ky., April 3, 2010–The private pilot lost control of the MU-2 shortly after it touched down on the 4,100-foot runway at Princeton-Caldwell Airport at approximately 1:30 p.m.. The pilot told the FAA investigator that the aircraft touched down on the centerline approximately 800 feet beyond the runway threshold in good visual weather conditions. Shortly after touchdown, the aircraft veered sharply to the right and exited the right side of the runway. After exiting the runway, the pilot added full power in an attempt to fly over a nearby ditch but collided with a fence, substantially damaging the aircraft. The sole-occupant pilot received only minor injuries in the accident.
FAA examination of the accident site revealed tire marks approximately 400 feet down the runway from the initial touchdown point that continued approximately 1,500 feet off the right side of the runway through grass until the airplane collided with the fence.
The pilot’s account of the event said that as the aircraft turned from base to final for Runway 23 at an approach speed of 95 to 100 knots, the windsock showed little to no wind. After the airplane crossed the threshold, the mainwheels touched down on centerline about 800 feet down the runway. He stated that the landing and the position on the runway were “textbook perfect” and that there was no crosswind during the final approach or touchdown. Approximately 100 to 200 feet after touchdown, at approximately 70 knots, the airplane veered right 30 degrees, the right wing dropped and the airplane exited the right side of the runway.
The left main tire was found inflated while the right main tire was damaged and had separated from the rim bead. The nosewheels were inflated and there were no signs of tire failure. The nosewheel steering linkages were intact and no anomalies were noted. All main landing-gear linkages were intact but had some impact damage. Examination of the engine power and propeller controls revealed no anomalies. Flight control continuity was established throughout the flight controls to their respective control surfaces, and the flaps were found set in the 20-degree position.
The NTSB was unable to find any mechanical or environmental reason for the aircraft’s leaving the runway after landing and hence declared the cause to be pilot error.
Final Report: In-flight Breakup During Post-Maintenance Flight
Bell 222, near Midlothian, Texas, June 10, 2010–A Bell 222U, registered to and operated under Part 91 by CareFlite of Grand Prairie, Texas, crashed after an in-flight breakup near Midlothian, Texas. The flight had departed Grand Prairie Municipal Airport (KGPM) at 1:52 p.m., about eight minutes before the accident. The aircraft was operating in visual flight conditions at the time of the accident, approximately 2 p.m. Both the ATP-rated pilot and the mechanic aboard were killed in the accident.
During interviews with the NTSB investigator, several witnesses reported seeing the tailboom, main rotor hub, main rotor blades and other debris separate from the helicopter. Another witness heard a “loud cracking” sound. The helicopter exploded when it hit the ground. Review of radar data confirmed the helicopter had departed GPM at 1:52 p.m. and proceeded southbound until the last radar target was recorded at 1:59 p.m. The last six radar hits indicated an average altitude of 1,300 feet msl at an average groundspeed of 115 knots.
Post-accident examination revealed that the helicopter’s “swashplate A-side drive pin” had failed in flight, resulting in the helicopter’s in-flight breakup and uncontrolled descent. The swashplate translates pilot control commands into movement of the helicopter’s main rotor. The separated head of the drive pin remained in the interior of the swashplate. The fractured drive pinhole exhibited mechanical damage, with the markings of increased amplitude and spacing progressing outward, which suggests that the fractured drive pin oscillated before it was ejected from its hole.
The surface of the recovered swashplate A-side drive pin displayed brittle cleavage-like fractures interspersed with intergranular separations and small dimpled regions consistent with exposure to hydrogen. The B-side drive pin, on the opposite side, was found intact. Both drive pins met engineering drawing requirements for material, hardness, heat treatment and plating.
During tests of two pins intentionally charged with hydrogen, one pin fractured under static load, and the fracture topography was consistent with the fracture topography on the failed A-side pin from the accident helicopter. Based on the fracture topography, it is likely that the swashplate A-side drive pin fractured as a result of hydrogen interaction. No other material discrepancies of the drive pin were found. Metallurgical examination revealed that fractures through the mast, B-side pitch link bolt and actuator attachments were consistent with overstress separations. Investigators were unable to conclusively determine the source of the hydrogen.
The NTSB determined the accident was caused by the fracture of the swashplate drive pin as a result of hydrogen embrittlement, due to an unknown source, which resulted in an in-flight breakup of the main rotor system during cruise flight.