Accidents: March 2019

 - March 3, 2019, 7:58 AM

Preliminary Reports

Pilot Taxis In After Le Bourget Runway Excursion

Cessna 510, Jan. 22, 2019, Paris, France—A Cessna 510 Mustang touched down 800 meters (approximately half a mile) short of the displaced threshold of Paris Le Bourget’s Runway 25 and veered left into the grass. After coming to a stop another 400 meters into the infield, the aircraft taxied about 50 meters back to the runway under its own power, joining it just before taxiway B1. It then proceeded to its assigned parking spot accompanied by airport firefighting and rescue units. No injuries were reported.

Three Killed in Ohio Medevac Accident

Bell 407, Jan. 27, 2019, McArthur, Ohio—An EMS helicopter operated by Survival Flight was destroyed when it crashed into a wooded hillside four miles northeast of Zaleski, Ohio, shortly before 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The commercial pilot, flight nurse, and paramedic were killed. The accident took place before dawn under overcast skies; the aircraft was operating under visual flight rules.

The 69-mile flight was originally accepted by the night shift pilot but handed off to the day pilot by company dispatch due to a scheduled shift change. Ten-second updates relayed by the helicopter’s onboard IRIS flight data monitoring system showed it flying east-northeasterly at 132 knots approximately 500 feet above the ground before abruptly entering a sharp left turn. Contact was lost immediately thereafter. A strong smell of fuel was reported by first responders, but there was no post-crash fire.

Two Fatalities in Northwest Territories Positioning Flight

Beechcraft B200 Super King Air, Jan. 30, 2019, Whati/Lac La Martre Airport, Northwest Territories, Canada—The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed that both pilots of an Air Tindi flight died when their King Air 200 went down about 24 km (15 miles) short of its intended destination of Whati, a village about 140 km (90 miles) northwest of the territorial capital of Yellowknife. No passengers were on board what was described as a charter flight.

The crew lost contact with air traffic control between 9 and 9:30 a.m. Search-and-rescue efforts began around noon involving a C-130 Hercules deployed from Winnipeg and Behchoko-based Canadian Rangers on snowmobiles. The C-130 crew eventually located the wreckage the following afternoon. Rescue efforts were impeded by deep snow and weather conditions including blowing snow and temperatures of -11 Celsius (12 Fahrenheit).

Nigerian Vice President Survives Helicopter Crash

AgustaWestland AW139, Feb. 2, 2019, Caverton, Kogi State, Nigeria—A reported brownout accident wrecked a helicopter belonging to Nigeria’s Presidential Fleet during a campaign trip by Vice President Yemi Osanbajo. None of the 12 people on board were reported to have been injured. A preliminary report by Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau faulted the pilot and the helicopter’s operator, Caverton Helicopters, for failing to perform an adequate reconnaissance of the landing zone prior to dispatch. However, a Nigerian Police Force Bell 412 landed successfully before the accident.

After the helicopter was enveloped in brownout conditions, the crew attempted to continue the approach with guidance from the helicopter’s radar altimeter. However, it touched down hard on the right skid and rolled over, separating the main rotor blades and damage to the helicopter’s fuselage. The Nigerian government confirmed that there was no evidence of sabotage or terrorist activity.

Final Reports

Electrical Failure, Gear Collapse Traced to Faulty Starter Relay

Swearingen SA227-TT, Jan. 19, 2018, Houston, Texas—A dual generator failure that caused a total loss of electrical capacity was triggered by a faulty relay in the left engine’s starter circuit, according to the probable cause report. The airplane incurred damage to the forward fuselage, both propellers, and both engines after the nose gear did not extend before an emergency landing at Houston’s Ellington Field. There were no injuries to either passengers or crew.

The accident occurred during a Part 91 corporate flight from Beaumont to Uvalde, Texas. While climbing through 18,000 feet, the two pilots recognized indications of a double generator failure and unsuccessfully attempted a reset. Battery power was quickly depleted as the pilots declared an emergency, setting the transponder code to 7600, and diverted to Ellington as the nearest suitable airport. 

By the time they reached the field all navigation and communications capability had been lost.  The crew performed the manual gear extension procedure and circled the airport until they saw emergency vehicles take position near Runway 17 right. Without working radios, they were unable to ask the tower controllers to verify the position of the landing gear. In his written statement, the 21,850-hour airline transport pilot said that he “expected a belly landing with no gears [sic] down. To my surprise, the main landing gear as down and locked.”  All occupants evacuated the aircraft through its main exit.

Following the accident, the airplane was examined by two FAA inspectors and a mechanic, who found that the right generator’s current limiter had blown. When the mechanic connected a fresh battery to the electrical system, the left propeller immediately began to rotate, indicating an uncommanded supply of current to its starter. Further troubleshooting determined that the left starter relay had failed during engine start, leaving the starter engaged and putting the flight’s entire electrical load on the right generator. The cumulative load exceeded the current limiter’s capacity, causing its failure and the consequent loss of all charging capacity.

The 1981-model aircraft had been operated for 9,258.4 total hours. Inspections of both engines had been completed 24 flight hours prior to the accident.

Pilot Technique Faulted for Power Loss During Autorotation Practice

Bell OH-58C, Jan. 29, 2018, Zebulon, Georgia—The NTSB concluded that a power loss the pilots perceived as an engine failure during recovery from a practice autorotation was more likely due to the flight instructor’s failure to fully open the throttle before raising the collective. The helicopter’s main rotor blades struck its tail boom during the ensuing forced landing, resulting in substantial damage. The instructor and his student, a detective with the Spalding County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, were uninjured.

The accident occurred after the fifth simulated engine failure of the public-use training flight. In a written statement to investigators, the 70-year-old, 5,800-hour instructor reported that he was on the controls during the maneuver, demonstrating how to attain the minimum rate of descent rather than the maximum gliding distance. He initiated the recovery at about 200 feet above ground level, rolling on throttle until the engine and rotor tachometer needles matched and then increasing collective. 

About “4 to 5 seconds” after the helicopter began to climb, “there was a loss of power from the engine” at an altitude of approximately 125 feet. The instructor recalled checking to make sure the throttle was fully open, then moving the throttle back to idle and opening it again in an unsuccessful attempt to restore power. An “aggressive” flare in the last 20 feet of descent boosted main rotor rpm while slowing the aircraft’s forward speed. It touched down smoothly on level skids but hit a 6-to-8-inch “terrace” during a short ground run. The shock caused the drooping main rotor blades to hit the tail boom.

In post-accident testing, the engine produced power above new-production standards at low-cruise, normal cruise, and maximum takeoff power. In “wave-off” tests involving rapid increases from idle to takeoff power, it responded “normally…without surging or hesitation,” leading investigators to conclude that the pilot had raised collective before fuel flow had increased sufficiently to sustain a climb. Although the instructor had extensive aviation experience, 60 percent was in airplanes, with only 200 hours in the accident make and model.

The 1968-model helicopter, originally manufactured for the United States Army, was subsequently acquired by the Spalding County Sheriff’s Department and had been flown for approximately 8,650 hours since new. 

Loose Fuel Line Fitting Implicated in LongRanger Crash

Bell 206L-1, April 2, 2018, Uetersen/Heist Airfield, Hamburg, Germany—During examination of a helicopter that lost power flying an abbreviated traffic-pattern circuit, BFU investigators found that the screw fitting at the upstream end of the line from the filter to the fuel pump was loose enough to allow fuel to leak from the filter at normal operating pressures. The fitting, commonly referred to as a “B-nut” in the United States, was less than finger-tight when the wreckage was examined at the accident site.

While repositioning to the airport fuel farm before a planned ferry flight to a maintenance facility, the helicopter lost power on the downwind leg abeam the runway threshold. The 40-year-old commercial pilot entered autorotation and turned toward the airport, but realized he’d be unable to reach the field and instead made a forced landing in a plantation of young fir trees. The aircraft sustained damage to the right side of the fuselage and damage to the main rotor blades. The tail rotor drive shaft was severed.

The manufacturer’s specified tightening torque for this fitting is 80-120 in-lb. Post-accident testing found that even at 40 in-lb, the fitting did not leak at normal operating fuel pressure. The report described it as having been “only hand-tight” when the wreckage was examined at the accident site. The manufacturer also advised that operating experience had shown that these fittings would not vibrate loose if initially tightened to specifications.

The 1983-model helicopter had been operated in the United States until May 2017.  Its last annual inspection had been completed the previous March at an aircraft total time of 13,632 hours.  Aircraft records did not document when or for what purpose the fuel-filter outlet fitting had last been removed.