Plane crash map Find crash sites, wreckage and more

N70144 accident description

Go to the Connecticut map...
Go to the Connecticut list...

Tail numberN70144
Accident dateJune 18, 2004
Aircraft typeRobinson R-44
LocationKillingly, CT
Near 41.782778 N, -71.8575 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 18, 2004, at 0324 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R-44 helicopter, N70144, operated by Verticare, Incorporated, of Salinas, California, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Killingly, Connecticut. The certificated commercial pilot and the certificated private pilot were fatally injured. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the flight between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP), Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Theodore Francis (T.F.) Green State Airport (PVD), Providence, Rhode Island. The positioning flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the president of Verticare, he and a cameraman had arrived in Providence on a commercial flight from California on June 17, 2004, for aerial video work in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Ohio. The accident helicopter, a "News Copter Version," left Salinas on June 14, 2004, and was expected to arrive at T.F. Green early on June 18, 2004. The pilots were scheduled to take a commercial flight back to California later that same day.

The president also reported that he had spoken with the pilot in command while they were on the ground in Scranton, and he reported that, "they were fully fueled...and evaluated weather conditions." The president was not aware by what means the pilots had evaluated the weather.

The president expected the helicopter to arrive at T.F. Green Airport about 0230, and both he and the cameraman went to meet it. During their wait, they spoke with other operators there who reported the weather conditions as poor, and one Learjet pilot, who had recently landed, stated that the ceiling was about 200 feet. The president and the cameraman continued to wait for the helicopter until 0800, "in hopes [the pilots] had stopped somewhere and would arrive later that morning."

Downloaded data from a handheld GPS unit found at the crash site revealed that the helicopter had departed Scranton at 0047. It then proceeded east, along Interstate 84, to Middletown, New York. It then turned southeast, along Route 17, then turned south, along Interstate 87. The helicopter subsequently passed Nyack, New York, crossed the Hudson River, and continued southeast until reaching Port Chester, New York. It then followed Interstate 95 northeast, until turning further northeast on Interstate 395.

Over Interstate 95, the helicopter began a climb, up to 8,600 feet by 0250. In the vicinity of Killingly, Connecticut, about 0306, the helicopter began a series of four, descending, right turns, beginning about 8,000 feet. It then made a much wider right turn, to the northwest of the original turns, and passed directly over Danielson Airport (5B3), Danielson, Connecticut, about 4,600 feet. The helicopter subsequently proceeded back to the south, to the area where the original turns took place, and completed four more descending right turns until the track stopped at 0324, at an indicated altitude of 560 feet.

Recorded speeds during the circling descents, from 8,000 feet to about 750 feet, varied between 72 mph and 127 mph. Subsequently recorded speeds, from time 0323:27 through 0324:00, were between 75 and 79 mph. The speed recorded at 0324:01 was 80.2 mph; at 0324:03, 25.9 mph; at 0324:04, 29.2 mph; and the last recorded speed, at 0324:05, was 11.4 mph.

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness, in the vicinity of 41 degrees 46.96 minutes north latitude, 71 degrees, 51.45 minutes west longitude.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial pilot certificate for rotorcraft-helicopter, with a rating for instrument-helicopter. He was also a certificated flight instructor in rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument-helicopter. His last logbook entry, June 13, 2004, indicated 875 hours of flight time. His latest FAA second class medical certificate was issued on February 23, 2004.

The co-pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate for rotorcraft-helicopter, and was issued his certificate on June 4, 2004. At the time, he had accrued 56 hours of flight time. His latest FAA first class medical certificate was issued on January 9, 2004.

According to a representative from Verticare, the commercial pilot was flying the mission in part, to build flight time to allow him to carry more passengers during future flights. The private pilot was onboard to build flight time toward his commercial certificate. The two were roommates.

The representative also confirmed that the pilots had planned to fly the helicopter to Providence, and return to California on a commercial flight. When the video missions were completed, the pilots would again fly commercially to meet the helicopter, then fly it back to Salinas.

According to initial responders to the accident, the commercial pilot was in the left front seat of the helicopter, and the private pilot had been in the right front seat.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The helicopter was manufactured in 1998, and at the time of the accident, had accrued 1,349.6 hours of operation. A 100 hour/annual inspection was completed on November 26, 2003, and on June 13, 2004, a 50 hour inspection was completed, at 1,320.3 hours of operation.

The helicopter was equipped for night flight, but not for flight in instrument meteorological conditions.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A surface analysis weather chart, for 0200, indicated an east-west stationary front extending through central Connecticut and southern Rhode Island. Individual station plots indicated overcast clouds, high relative humidity, and patchy light precipitation over the region. An area Weather Depiction Chart, for 0300, indicated widespread low instrument flight rules and instrument flight rules conditions over the northeastern United States. Station plots indicated patchy rain, fog, and mist.

The nearest airport with recorded weather information was Windham Airport (IJD), Willimantic, Connecticut, about 15 nautical miles to the west. The airport elevation was 247 feet.

Recorded weather information at Windham, at 0252, included calm winds, 1 3/4 statute miles visibility, mist, an overcast cloud layer at 500 feet above ground level (agl), temperature and dew point both 71 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure 29.88 inches of mercury. Remarks: Ceiling variable 200 feet to 1,000 feet.

Recorded weather information at Windham, at 0352, included calm winds, 1 3/4 statute miles visibility in light rain and mist, a broken cloud layer at 200 feet agl, an overcast cloud layer at 600 feet agl, temperature and dew point both 71 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure of 29.88 inches of mercury. Remarks: Rain began at 0341.

All weather observations recorded at T.F. Green Airport between midnight and 0624, included 200-foot overcast ceilings and mist.

A witness, who lived near the crash site, reported that she awoke to the sound of a helicopter, then a crash, around 0330. She looked out her window, "but couldn't see anything. It was really foggy outside. The fog was so thick I could only see the outline of the trees about 20 feet away." The witness also noted that "it didn't seem windy at all, but you could see moisture in the air."

COMMUNICATIONS

A review of air traffic control transmissions by FAA specialists revealed that after departing Wilkes-Barre, there was no contact with any air traffic control facilities. A review of Flight Service Station (FSS) transmissions and telephone conversations revealed that no flight plan had been filed, or that any weather update had been requested from any area FSS, including Altoona, Bridgeport, and Williamsport.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

Danielson Airport had one runway, 13-31, which was 2,700 feet long and 75 feet wide. The airport elevation was 238 feet.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The wreckage was located in a heavily wooded area, about 2.7 nautical miles, 130 degrees from the approach end of Danielson Airport runway 31. A topographic overlay of the location revealed a ground elevation of about 470 feet.

A wreckage path, about 275 feet in length, curved approximately 90 degrees to the right. Along the path, there were cut tree branches and pieces of Plexiglas, with the vast majority located at the beginning. About 75 feet from the beginning, there was a tip of a tail rotor blade. About 200 feet along the curved path, and about 100 feet outboard of it, was the tail rotor gearbox with the remainder of the blades attached. About 35 feet beyond that, and also about 100 feet outboard the curved path, was the still-attached vertical and horizontal stabilizers.

Near the end of the wreckage path, about 80 feet up, the main trunk of a tree was fractured. The main wreckage was located almost directly below the tree. The helicopter came to rest on its left side, and exhibited upward crush of the nose section. The skids were broken off.

Both main rotor blades exhibited upward bending and chordwise rippling, consistent with severe coning. Neither blade exhibited substantial leading damage.

The rotor driveline belts were intact, with no evidence of rolling in, or jumping off the roller grooves. The main and tail rotor gearboxes were rotated by hand. The main rotor blade mast was intact, and the pitch change links were fractured.

Control continuity, between the cockpit controls and rotor head, could not be confirmed due to fractured push-pull assemblies and "accordion" crush near the collective spring assembly.

There was fuel in the main fuel tank, and appeared to be at least 2-3 gallons, but the exact amount could not be determined due to the helicopter being on its side. The fuel was blue in color and absent of debris. Fuel was also found in the fuel lines to the carburetor and in the float bowl.

The engine was examined, with no evidence noted of catastrophic failure. Crankshaft continuity was confirmed, as was compression. The spark plugs were examined, with electrodes found to be gray in color. Borescoping of the accessible cylinders, and examination of the carburetor revealed no mechanical anomalies.

The Hobbs meter indicated 1,349.6 hours.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Autopsies were performed at the State of Connecticut, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Farmington, Connecticut. Toxicological testing was performed at the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

On June 19, 2004, the wreckage was released to the president of Verticare.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.