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N750LT accident description

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Tail numberN750LT
Accident dateJuly 24, 1996
Aircraft typeBell 206B
LocationWarren, ID
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On July 24, 1996, about 1415 mountain daylight time, N750LT, a Bell 206B helicopter, operated by Helicopter Support Services, Inc., Cascade, Idaho, rolled over during takeoff and was destroyed near Warren, Idaho. The commercial pilot and a passenger received minor injuries. The other passenger was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight was illegally conducted under 14 CFR 135.

On the day of the accident, the accident pilot made several flights to provide transportation into and out of remote logging sites. The purpose of the accident flight was to transport two timber fallers out of a cleared logging site. According to the pilot, the pilot was shown where the site was located as he flew over it while transporting a load of timber fallers to another site earlier on the day of the accident.

According to written statements (attached) submitted by the surviving passenger, he and the other passenger had located a landing zone and constructed the "heliport" in a section of forest land that they were tasked to survey. The heliport was constructed by falling a tree, cutting a "rip" from the tree, and placing the rip parallel and in front of the felled tree. Its purpose was to create "a nearly flat landing for the [helicopter]." The surviving passenger stated that the fatally injured passenger had performed the majority of the helipad construction, because the surviving passenger surveyed the area for other potential landing sites.

According to the surviving passenger: "Together we moved the top Rip into position and stabilized the upper Rip. We tested the stability of the upper Rip by applying our combined weight. We were satisfied that... it would not move if landed on properly."

The surviving passenger further stated:

It took the pilot two tries to set down. We boarded from the [left] side and I put our gear in the cargo area. Because I was toward the rear, I started to get in the back, as I did so I noticed that the [left] skid was not clear up to the center of the ripped log that we positioned for the front skids to sit on.... when I made eye contact with [the other passenger] about the skid he showed no concern, and we boarded the 206 and buckled up. [The other passenger] and I were never in a position to see the [right] side of the 206. [The other passenger ] looked back at me and I gave him the "thumbs up" sign to let him know my door was closed and I was buckled in. The pilot applied power and nothing seemed to happen, he seemed to give it more power and the 206 tried to lift up. The rear of the 206 came up in the air and it felt like the right hand front skid was tied to the ground. I started to scream "log on your skid, log on your skid" and it felt like the rear of the 206 came up higher and the [left front] was trying to come up in the air. The right front wouldn't come up. It felt like the pilot was trying to power out of the problem. Soon the rotors struck the ground in front of us with a very loud, scary, severe noise, and was thrown on to the [right] side almost on its top.

The passenger also stated that the pilot told him, immediately after the accident, that he (the pilot) had not checked the front skids after landing on the logs.

According to the pilot in a written statement (attached):

I assessed the size, location, and feasibility of the site as I flew over.... Upon approach to the landing site I continued to [assess] the landing site for a safe landing and anything that might be a factor in my landing.... It looked to me like a good landing zone for maneuverability. I continued a cautious, slow approach and carefully set the aircraft down on the logs. I stabilized the aircraft and maintained power to keep the aircraft completely still on the logs. I signaled the cutters outside the aircraft that the aircraft was stabilized and that they could begin loading. As they loaded their gear in the aft left cargo compartment of the aircraft, I continued to hold the aircraft absolutely still and stabilized. After securing their gear, they climbed into the aircraft. One log cutter in the left front seat and one log cutter in the left rear seat.... I asked [the front left seat passenger] if he and his partner were secure and he stated that they were and gave me a thumbs up to indicate that they were ready. At that moment, the nose of the aircraft began to pitch down towards the ground. I noticed the log that the aircraft was sitting was moving in a rolling motion towards the aircraft. At first, fearing the danger of dynamic rollover, I tried to let the aircraft settle, hoping that the skid would contact the ground and stop the downward motion.... The left front passenger yelled that the log was on top of the skid. I observed that the main rotor was going to contact the uphill slope in front of the aircraft so, as a last ditch effort I applied power and tried to pull the aircraft vertically off the log. The log was too heavy for the aircraft and the aircraft's main rotor struck the uphill slope in front of the aircraft. The aircraft then pitched up and rolled on [its] right side.

The pilot also stated that the surviving passenger, immediately after the accident, asked him if the fatally injured passenger told him about "... a problem with the log on the left front...." The pilot stated that he was not told about it, and the surviving passenger responded that he told the other passenger to tell the pilot about the log prior to the flight.

The helicopter, a 1975 Bell model 206B, was registered to Heartland Helicopter, Inc., Rogersville, Missouri, and was being leased back to the operator at the time of the accident. It was a two-bladed, five-place, single-engine rotorcraft. According to the helicopter manufacturer, the length of each landing skid (for the "high skid" configuration) is 8 feet 6 inches, and the main rotor arc protrudes about 6 feet directly beyond the front of the nose of the helicopter.

The pilot, age 29, held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for helicopters, and he also held an FAA certified flight instructor certificate for instrument helicopters. According to FAA records, he was issued a First Class Medical Certificate on April 4, 1995. At the time of the accident, his Second Class Medical Certificate privileges had expired.

The pilot reported that he had accumulated a total of 3,600 hours of rotorcraft flight time, including 450 hours of pilot-in-command in type. The majority of the pilot's flight time was accumulated during the pilot's 9 years of military service. The pilot stated that he routinely operated in and out of remote landing sites during his tenure with the military. The pilot left the military 3 months prior to the accident and had since accrued of 100 hours of civilian flight time.

The pilot was the owner and operator of Helicopter Support Services, Inc. According to the FAA, the pilot/operator was currently applying for authorization to conduct flight operations under 14 CFR 135, and had not yet been granted the certification at the time of the accident. The pilot/operator conducted the flight under contract with another operator, Carson Helicopters, based in Jacksonville, Oregon.

The fatally injured passenger, age 32, and the surviving passenger, age 31, were both employed as timber fallers for Carson Helicopters. According to Carson Helicopters, no formalized training, standardization, or written guidance related to helipad construction was in effect prior to the accident.

The wreckage and surrounding accident site was examined one day after the accident by an FAA aviation safety inspector from the Boise FAA Flight Standards District Office, and a Deputy Sheriff with the Valley County Sheriff's Office (report attached).

The helicopter was found lying on its right side, facing west, in between the two logs that were used for the landing. Both logs were parallel to each other and were laid out along a north-south direction. The longitudinal axis of the helicopter was lying perpendicular to the two logs. A ground scar was found directly in front of the helicopter's nose. The main rotor blades, including the rotor hub, had separated from the helicopter and were found lying about 20 feet northwest of the helicopter. Red paint transfer marks were found on some of the main rotor blade pieces.

An examination of the left side of the helicopter revealed that the left door was missing and the door frame was damaged. The left door was found about 50 feet to the north of the helicopter. The door was painted red. An examination of the entire helicopter wreckage did not reveal any evidence of fire, explosion, or preimpact mechanical malfunction.

The left skid of the helicopter remained intact and undamaged; the straight portion of the skid (not including the length of the curved tip) was measured to be 8 feet in length. The forward log was found about 7 feet from the rear log. The right skid was broken off about two feet aft of its front toe. The metal on the fracture surface of the right skid that remained attached to the helicopter was deformed in an upward direction. An examination of the separated section of the right skid revealed that its toe was bent upward, and wood fragments were found imbedded on top of the toe.

The forward log was found resting on the ground, curved side down, with its flat, freshly-cut cut surface exposed. The forward log was tilted toward the downsloping terrain. Two pieces of loose timber, measuring about 6 inches in diameter and 4 inches in length, were found lying on the north end of the log. One of the pieces was contacting the forward log on its eastern, downsloping side, and the other piece was lying adjacent to the first piece. Neither piece was imbedded or wedged into the ground or forward log.

The forward log was estimated to weigh about 350 pounds. A deputy sheriff stood on the center section of the log during the investigation; he stated that he "could easily rock the log from side to side by shifting [his] weight from one foot to the other." No evidence was found to indicate that the forward log had moved laterally along the ground. The forward log measured 13 feet 9 inches in length, and was found about 7 feet from the rear log.

An examination of the flat cut surface of forward log revealed a semicircular impression at its edge; the impression matched the shape and size to that of the forward edge of the right skid. No scrape marks were evident on the flat surface of the forward log directly in front of the impression.

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