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N943MH accident description

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Tail numberN943MH
Accident dateOctober 16, 2008
Aircraft typeRobinson R22
LocationDryden, NY
Near 42.418334 N, -76.387777 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On October 16, 2008 at 1341 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N943MH, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while in cruise flight near Dryden, New York. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which departed Norwich Airport (OIC), Norwich, New York, about 1315. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

An Alert Notice (ALNOT) for the missing helicopter was issued on October 17, 2008, when it failed to arrive at its intended destination. The helicopter was found following an air and ground search by the Civil Air Patrol on October 19, 2008. Preliminary radar data revealed that the helicopter was on a westerly heading, in a shallow descent, about 6 miles south of the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH) when the radar target identified as the accident helicopter disappeared. The last target was depicted at 1,900 feet, about 1 mile from the accident site, in the vicinity of terrain that reached 1,600 feet elevation.

The helicopter wreckage came to rest on a steep, wooded ridgeline, about 1,600 feet elevation, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was oriented 260 degrees magnetic, and was about 100 feet in length. The original impact point was in a tree about 60 feet above the ground, and 1,640 feet elevation. The main wreckage came to rest on its right side, oriented about 020 degrees magnetic.

Several branches, as well as tree trunk sections about 6 inches in diameter, displayed clean angular cuts and were scattered along the wreckage path.

The tailboom was separated at the third bay position, forward of the anti-collision light. The horizontal stabilizer, vertical fin, tail rotor gearbox, and tail rotor assembly were all attached. Both tail rotor blades were still attached in their grips, and the target blade displayed impact damage near the tip. Drive train and pitch control continuity was established from the fracture in the tailboom to the tailrotor.

The engine and transmission remained mounted in the fuselage, and the main rotor hub and blade assembly was still attached. Both main rotor blades were attached to their grips. The red main rotor blade was largely intact, but bent and wrinkled along its entire span. The blue blade main spar was fractured about 2 feet outboard of the mast. The remainder of the blade was located about 20 feet south of the main wreckage and was twisted and wrapped around the aft landing gear cross tube.

Control continuity was established from the cyclic and collective controls to the swashplate. The blue pitch change link mount "ears" at the swashplate were fractured. The red pitch change link was still attached, but later broke during movement of the wreckage. Throttle control continuity was established from the collective control to the carburetor. The movement was smooth through its entire range with no binding noted.

The engine remained in its mounts, and the exhaust manifolds were crushed upwards against the cylinders. The engine was examined in the airframe at the site as found.

The spark plugs were removed, and all electrodes were intact, light tan and gray in color, and displayed no abnormal wear. The magnetos were secure in their mounts, and removed. Both magnetos were rotated by hand and produced spark at all terminal leads. The carburetor was removed, and examination revealed no mechanical anomalies.

The crankshaft was rotated by hand at the engine cooling fan, and continuity was established through the powertrain and valve train to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed on all cylinders using the thumb method. The engine cooling fan was twisted opposite the direction of rotation.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and maintenance records, the helicopter was manufactured in 1992, and had accrued 2,734.9 aircraft hours. The helicopter’s most recent annual inspection was completed October 1, 2008, at 2,731.6 aircraft hours. The helicopter was overhauled, and an overhauled engine was installed, at the Robinson factory in 1998. The helicopter had accrued 734.9 hours since that time.

At 1356, the weather conditions reported at ITH, located 6 nautical miles northwest of the accident site, included an overcast ceiling at 1,000 feet, visibility 10 miles, temperature 12 degrees Celsius, dewpoint 9 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.02 inches of mercury. There were no winds reported.

A pilot that departed ITH prior to the accident provided a pilot report (PIREP) to air traffic control, as well as a written statement. He stated, "I recall a 500 foot overcast, with ragged bases and light turbulence. As displayed by my air data computer, the winds at 4,000 MSL were northwesterly and considerably stronger: 25 - 30 knots, with moderate turbulence."

According to fuel records and a statement by the fuel vendor at Norwich Airport, the pilot purchased fuel at 1226, but delayed his departure until 1315 due to weather.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, multiengine sea, and instrument airplane. He also held a private pilot certificate with a rating for rotorcraft helicopter, which was issued on October 14, 2008, two days prior to the accident. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued in May 2007, and he reported 1,080 total hours of flight experience on that date.

A review of the pilot’s personal logbook found at the site revealed that only his helicopter experience was documented in that book. No other pilot logbooks were recovered. The pilot logged 58 total hours of rotorcraft experience, all of which was in the Robinson R22.

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