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site near Beluga, Alaska. The flight was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) on- demand commercial flight under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 135. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers sustained no injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight. Company flight following procedures were in effect and a company flight plan was filed and activated.

During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in- charge, along with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector on March 13, 2015, the pilot stated that while en route, about 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL), he felt a “clunk” in the tail rotor control pedals and the helicopter began to yaw to the left. When he attempted to counteract the yaw by depressing the right tail rotor control pedal, there was no reaction from the helicopter and the right pedal travelled to the forward stop. The pilot declared an in-flight emergency with air traffic control, returned to Merrill Field, and executed an emergency run-on landing.

A post flight examination of the helicopter revealed the tail rotor pitch change spider assembly (part

number 350A33-2030-

00) had fractured into multiple pieces, all with rotational scarring present along the fractured surfaces. The inside of the spider assembly contained dark discoloration consistent with thermal damage. Light circumferential scarring was present on the tail rotor gear shaft about 3 inches outboard of the tail rotor gear box, approximately


wide. The fractured tail

change rotor pitch spider assembly

and the tail rotor gear box were retained. An NTSB metallurgical examination is pending.

Preliminary Injuries: 3 Fatal

On March 22, 2015, about 1430 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N30242, impacted a two-story building while maneuvering

near Orlando,

Florida. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and the helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was registered to a private

individual and operated by a commercial operator. The local flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which departed from Executive Airport (ORL), Orlando, Florida, shortly before the accident.

Multiple witnesses reported hearing a loud helicopter flying low which caught their attention. As they looked in the

direction of the sound

they observed the helicopter descending into a tree canopy. One witness watched the helicopter’s main rotor blades break apart as the helicopter descended through the trees. The helicopter subsequently impacted a power line transformer before it collided with a building and exploded into fire. The witnesses called 911 and attempted to extinguish the fire.

Preliminary review of air traffic control radar data and voice transcription revealed that the pilot requested a downtown departure. The helicopter departed ORL on a westerly heading

and approximately

five minutes into the flight the pilot requested to return to the airport. This was the last recorded the pilot.

transmission from

Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge revealed that the helicopter impacted the top of a two- story building about 3 nautical miles northwest of ORL on a 360 degree magnetic heading. The wreckage debris field was about 50 yards in circumference. All flight control surfaces were located at the accident

site. Examination

of the wreckage revealed that a post-impact fire was concentrated within the second story of the building where the helicopter came to rest.

The cockpit section of the helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and post-crash fire. The main rotor mast, head, and gearbox were found within the wreckage debris field.


s Note: Although an accident is painful for all involved, a cursory review of accidents that have occured are both reflective and

instructive. Accident reports give us unique insights into specific flights and situations that may make each of us reflect on our own operations or current flying environment. I encourage pilots, mechanics, crew members, and decision makers to make it a habit to study the industry’ trigger higher awareness that saves even one life or one airframe, it will have been well worth the read.

s recent history . If they


May 2015

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