Accidents: February 2021

 - February 1, 2021, 8:00 AM

Preliminary Reports

Pilot Unhurt After Swamp Landing

Bell 206, October 16, 2020, Zephyrhills, Florida – The pilot was uninjured in a precautionary autorotation into a swamp, but damage to his helicopter included separation of the tailboom and mid-span fractures of both main rotor blades.

Fifteen minutes after departing from Plant City on a personal flight to Jacksonville’s Craig Field, the pilot noticed a “binding sound” and felt a decrease in engine power and slight left yaw.  Engine instruments remained in their normal ranges and no warning annunciators illuminated before the low rotor rpm warning horn sounded, at which he initiated the autorotation.  The helicopter was subsequently recovered for examination.

Citation Landing Overrun Ends in Gear Collapse

Cessna 551, December 2, 2020, Lufkin, Texas – The airplane went off the end of the runway, through the airport perimeter fence, across a road, and came to rest in a cow pasture after landing in the rain.  The pilot suffered minor injuries and the two passengers were unhurt, but all three legs of the landing gear collapsed, causing structural damage to both wings’ spars.  The IFR flight from Austin to the Angelina County Airport had proceeded normally, flying the RNAV approach to land on Runway 16.  Visibility was reported as six miles under a 900-foot broken layer.  The pilot told investigators that it was raining and the runway was wet. 

He reporting having cycled the anti-skid braking system two or three times during the landing roll, but said the brakes stopped responding after the airplane slowed to about 20 knots.  Local press reported that one of the passengers was the incoming Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

Two Fatalities in N.Z. Helicopter Ditching

Airbus Helicopters EC130, December 15, 2020, Kekerengu River, South Island, New Zealand – A TAIC press release reported that two of the five people on board were killed and the other three suffered serious injuries when the helicopter crashed into shallow water near the beach at the mouth of the Kekerengu River.  The accident took place near a busy cafĂ© on State Highway 1, and potential witnesses were asked to contact the TAIC.  The destination of the flight, which originated at Christchurch, was not initially reported.

Phenom 100 Damaged in Runway Overshoot

Embraer EMB-500, December 16, 2020, Jacksonville, Florida – The airplane’s right wing hit the ground after the airplane overran the runway in heavy rain.  Neither of the pilots nor their passenger was injured in the accident, which occurred at the Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig, but the main landing gear punctured the wing near its root.  The corporate flight from Miami’s Opa-Locka Executive Airport flew the ILS approach to Runway 32, landing in the touchdown zone at about 100 knots.  The pilot reported that he applied full manual braking as it slowed to 80 knots, but found the airplane “was not reducing speed for stop as expected.”

Approaching the departure end, he tried to use the emergency brakes three times without effect.  A fourth attempt as the airplane rolled into the grass was also unsuccessful, so the pilot used left rudder to steer the airplane away from the approach lights.  Weather conditions included one-quarter mile visibility in thunderstorms and heavy rain under a 300-foot broken ceiling, with 0.32 inches of rain in the preceding hour.

Final Reports

Sabreliner Lost After Unspecified Electrical Failure

Rockwell International NA-265-65, April 13, 2019, New Albany, Mississippi – Five and a half minutes after its pilots began discussing “unknown system anomalies,” the jet entered a descending right turn and crashed at high speed into woodlands.  The pilots and sole passenger were killed and the aircraft was so severely fragmented that many of its components could not be identified.  The captain had reported “AC voltage problems” in his next-to-last radio transmission, but the exact nature of the anomaly could not be determined from either the cockpit voice recording or examination of the wreckage.

The flight departed Oxford, Mississippi at 15:06 local time on an IFR flight plan to Hamilton, Alabama.  Two minutes after takeoff, the airplane’s transponder stopped transmitting altitude readouts as the pilot reported climbing through 9.000 feet for their cleared altitude of 11,000.  At about the same time, the CVR recorded discussion between the pilots that included mentions of a “filament,” |a “ground blower breaker,” the “avionics master … heading,” and “something off on the autopilot.”  Thirty seconds after the pilot took control from the first officer, the FO reported having lost contact with ATC.  No further conversation was captured by the CVR, and the NTSB noted that it didn’t record either pilot referring to the airplane’s emergency checklists.

The airplane turned right from a 080-degree heading to a heading of 120, then, two minutes later, left to 040 degrees.  At 15:12, the controller asked whether the crew was having navigational problems or deviating for weather.  The captain replied that they were deviating and reported “AC voltage problems.”  Thirty seconds after he read back an assigned heading of 095 degrees, the airplane again turned right and disappeared from radar coverage.  At 15:05, the Tupelo Regional Airport, some 13-1/2 miles southeast, reported light rain under a 4,000-foot overcast with lightning distant to the northwest through north.  A special observation recorded at 15:24 included a broken ceiling at 4,900 feet with thunderstorms in the vicinity.

Spatial Disorientation Caused Fatal Helicopter Crash

Agusta A109, June 28, 2019, Brainerd, Minnesota – The NTSB ascribed the crash of a HEMS flight onto airport grounds to spatial disorientation as the pilot attempted to initiate a missed approach in low IMC at night.  The pilot and flight nurse were killed; the flight paramedic survived with serious injuries. The accident occurred after midnight on the return flight after a patient transport.  Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport’s automatic surface observing system reported a 200-foot overcast, with visibility varying between one-quarter mile in fog and half a mile in haze.

The pilot flew the ILS approach to Runway 23 with the autopilot coupled.  The helicopter crossed the final approach fix 5.3 miles from the threshold at 93 knots.  When it reached decision height, the radar altimeter indicating 130 feet, the pilot set the flight director to altitude hold and decoupled the autopilot.  Over the next 14 seconds, pitch attitude increased from 3 degrees nose-down to 20 degrees nose-up and the helicopter climbed 100 feet with power set below 30 percent torque.  Airspeed slowed from 50 knots to 25 as the pilot set the vertical speed and heading modes on the flight director and rapidly increased power.  At 00:39:38, he announced a go-around; power increased above 80 percent while airspeed dropped to zero.  The helicopter “entered a right rotational yaw” and the radar altimeter reading reached 300 feet as power exceeded 110 percent torque with airspeed still near zero.  The last recorded flight data showed a radar altitude of 100 feet with the autopilot set to altitude hold and power below 30 percent.  The flight paramedic recalled seeing the pavement and runway lights through thin fog during the approach with clouds to one side.  After the pilot called for the go-around, the helicopter spun right and hit the ground.

Provided the final approach segment is flown at less than 90 knots, Federal Aviation Regulations allow helicopters to fly instrument approaches in visibility as low as half the published minimum for Category A, though not less than one-quarter mile or 1,200 feet runway visual range.  Following the accident, the operator revised its internal procedures to require a minimum of one-mile visibility 400-foot ceilings for instrument approaches.