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N61735 accident description

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Tail numberN61735
Accident dateJuly 22, 2009
Aircraft typeHughes 369
LocationFranklin, PA
Near 39.806944 N, -79.682778 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On July 22, 2009, about 1125 eastern daylight time, a Hughes 369D, N61735, was substantially damaged during a forced landing in a open field in Forbes State Forest, near Franklin, Pennsylvania, while enroute to a temporary landing location. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. The flight was conducted under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133.

The helicopter arrived in Pennsylvania from California on July 4, 2009 and was being contracted to gather 200 to 250 pound bags of seismic monitoring equipment from remote locations in the heavily wooded area and reposition them to the temporary landing sight or another location. Since the helicopter had arrived it had recorded approximately 72.9 hours of flight time, moving the seismic monitoring equipment within a 20 square mile area.

On the morning of the flight the accident pilot attended a safety briefing conducted by the contracting company at 0600 along with his ground personnel for this contract. About 0730 the pilot and ground person departed the safety briefing for that days operation. According to the ground person and the company's daily time sheet the pilot performed a pre-flight inspection of the accident helicopter, as he had done all the previous mornings, and had started the helicopter's engine about 0934 and departed at 0939. The flight returned to the temporary landing area about 1010 to re-fuel for the next flight. The accident flight departed about 1030 and flew to pre-determined locations in order to retrieve a total of 4 bags carry seismic monitoring equipment. During the flight's return to the landing zone, numerous personnel, including the ground person, heard the pilot talking over their communication frequency, however most of the communication was inaudible but some heard the pilot saying that he was "going into the tree."

An on-scene investigation by the Safety Board revealed that the helicopter impacted the ground in an open field 100 feet away from a wooded area which consisted of trees approximately 60 feet in height. The helicopter came to rest upright leaning slightly to the left on a heading of 170 degrees. The five main and two tail rotor blades exhibited little damage to the leading edges. Two of the main rotor blades exhibited slight coning in the positive direction and one of the main rotor blades was bent in the negative direction. The tail boom exhibited marks along the left side with orange paint transfer consistent with a main rotor blade striking the tail boom. Continuity was confirmed from the rudder pedals to the tail rotor and from the main rotor blades to tail rotor blade. The main rotor blade droop stop rollers exhibited no damage. The tail rotor gearbox was able to rotate freely and oil was present in the sight glass. The collective control rod located under the cockpit floor was fractured and continuity was confirmed from the collective to the fracture point, however due to the damage to the underside of the fuselage continuity could not be confirmed aft of the fracture.

The left side of the horizontal portion of the empennage was bent downward beginning approximately 10 inches from the vertical portion of the empennage. The right landing skid was separated from the fuselage and was laying about 2 feet from the helicopter. The left skid was separated and was lying next to the fuselage. The left side of the fuselage exhibited extensive crush damage, consistent with a high vertical descent rate. The helicopter had only the left pilot seat installed; the seat pan was bowed downward, consistent with a high vertical descent rate, and all the other seats had been previously removed to allow for a greater useful payload capability.

The auxiliary fuel tank switch, which was located on the left side of the pilot's seat, was found extended or in the closed position. The main fuel tank switch, located on the center console, was found in the open position.

The engine was examined on scene and the throttle position was confirmed in the full power position at time of impact. Oil was present and clean, the magnetic plugs were clean of foreign matter, the bleed valve was in the open position, and the chip detectors were clean. The gear box vent line was separated at the attachment point on the engine. The turbine was able to be spun freely by hand and continuity was confirmed throughout. The engine was installed on the accident helicopter in February 2006.

The external load and the line that attached it to the helicopter were located in the wooded area 281 feet on a heading of 076 degrees from the helicopter. The external load, which consisted of three orange bags and one yellow bag, each consisted of seismic recording equipment and each weighing approximately 250 pounds. The line, which was a thick braid nylon rope and an electrical cord, was approximately 200 feet in length and consisted of a metal hook on one end which would have been attached to a hook on the bottom of the helicopter. A metal apparatus was attached to the other end which consisted of four metal hooks weighing approximately 150 pounds.

The pilot age 33, held a commercial pilot certificate, with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued on March 24, 2009. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight time of 2,600 hours. The pilot had accomplished a biennial flight review on October 27, 2007 in a Robinson Helicopter R-44 and on February 27, 2009 the pilot accomplished a check ride with his current employer in the accident helicopter make and model. According to company records of the pilot's job application he had 2,844 total hours flight experience, 1,876 total hours of flight experience in Turbine Powered Rotorwing as Pilot in Command, and 1,252 total hours of flight experience in the accident helicopter make and model. The pilot was hired as a contract pilot on February 25, 2009 and had flown approximately 161 hours with this company since his date of hire all of which was in the accident helicopter make and model.

The helicopter was issued an airworthiness certificate with the FAA on March 10, 1993 and was registered to the owner on January 4, 2002. It was equipped with an Allison 250-C20R2 engine. The 100,200,300 hour yearly inspection was completed on the airframe and the engine on June 29, 2009 and at the time of the inspection the hobbs meter indicated 1,658.3 total hours. At that time the airframe had 11,621.5 total hours and the engine had 1,237.2 total hours and 852 cycles.

The 1130 recorded weather observation at Garrett County Airport (2G4), Oakland, Maryland, located approximately 22 nautical miles southeast from the accident location, included wind from 140 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 2,100 feet above ground level, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 15 degrees C; altimeter 30.19 inches of mercury.

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