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N8356C accident description

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Tail numberN8356C
Accident dateNovember 05, 2007
Aircraft typeRobinson Helicopter R44
LocationJamestown, TN
Near 36.425556 N, -85.057222 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 5, 2007, at 1315 central standard time, a Robinson R44 Astro, N8356C, owned and operated by the commercial pilot as Fly-N-Dollar Helicopter Services, collided with trees and terrain after takeoff from a creek bed in Jamestown, Tennessee. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. A postimpact fire consumed the helicopter. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the commercial flight that was conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to witnesses at the crash site, the helicopter was transporting investors in and out of a remote oil well site. The helicopter landed and departed from a creek bed oriented approximately north/south. The creek bed was about 70 feet wide, with cliffs and tall trees on both banks. A four-strand set of power lines crossed the creek, oriented approximately east/west, about 125 feet above the water.

The witnesses stated that the helicopter's approach for its first landing was to the south, and that the helicopter passed beneath the power lines prior to landing. The helicopter's second approach to the creek bed was to the north, and it landed in the creek south of the wires.

The witness accounts of the initial takeoff portion of the accident flight were consistent throughout. They all described the sound of the helicopter as "strong," "steady," and "normal." The helicopter departed to the north, climbed to approximately tree top height, and began a banking turn to the left to reverse direction. All of the witnesses described hearing a "pop" before the helicopter descended into trees, collided with terrain, and caught fire. Some of the witnesses described watching the helicopter strike the wires as they heard the "pop."

In a telephone interview, one witness said he was working on the oil rig as he watched the helicopter depart. He said, "The helicopter took off out of the creek bed, looked like he was going to do a U-turn, and got caught by the wind, and then got sling-shotted over and hit the power lines. The wind was blowing pretty good, and slung it into the power lines."

Several witnesses stated that the power lines were discussed with the pilot, either one-on-one, or in groups. One witness, who arrived in the accident helicopter earlier in the day, said that he discussed the landing site with the pilot during the initial approach. The witness was not a pilot, but owned helicopters, and his company performed gas and power line surveys from the air. He said, "I didn't like it, it was tight, and I don't like wires." The witness stated he couldn't see the wires, and explained to the pilot how the placement of hardware on a power pole denotes the orientation of the wires. The pilot assured the witness that "it was safe" and continued the approach under the wires.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and pilot records revealed the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane. The pilot also held a flight instructor certificate with a rating for rotorcraft-helicopter. The pilot was issued a first-class medical certificate on November 2, 2006.

Review of the pilot's logbook revealed he had accrued 989 total hours of flight experience, 601 hours of which were in helicopters, and 485 hours of which were in make and model. The pilot also flew for a company that held an operator certificate under CFR Part 135. The pilot's most recent CFR Part 135 flight check was completed May 25, 2007; however, the pilot's company (Flying-N-Dollar Helicopter Services) did not possess an operator certificate under CFR Part 135.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

A review of FAA and aircraft maintenance records revealed the helicopter was manufactured in 1997. It was on an annual inspection program, and the most recent 100-hour inspection was completed November 4, 2007 at 949.9 aircraft hours. The most recent annual inspection was completed August 15, 2007, at 839.5 aircraft hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1253, the weather reported at Crossville Memorial Airport (CSV), Crossville, Tennessee, 30 miles south of the accident site, included overcast skies at 3,800 feet, 10 miles visibility, and wind from 170 degrees at 7 knots. The temperature was 18 degrees Celsius (C) and the dew point was 7 degrees C. At 1353, the weather reported at CSV included a broken ceiling at 3,800 feet, 10 miles visibility, and wind from 180 degrees at 6 knots, gusting to 14 knots. The temperature was 18 degrees C and the dew point was 8 degrees C.

Witnesses at the site described the weather as "very windy," "gusty," and some said the winds were "swirling" and "tumbling" over the cliffs and into the creek bed.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The wreckage was examined at the site on November 6, 2007, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The helicopter came to rest in heavily wooded terrain, on a slope of approximately 30 degrees.

Main rotor blade fragments were scattered around the crash site. Both blades were accounted for, and all fragments displayed damage consistent with impact. Several pieces of fallen timber, some 5 inches in diameter, were scattered around the wreckage and displayed sharp, angular cuts.

The helicopter rested on its left side, and the cockpit, cabin area, and aft fuselage were destroyed by impact and postcrash fire. Control continuity could not be established as flight control push-pull tubes were completely consumed by fire. Flight control push-pull tube rod-ends were still attached in their respective bellcranks.

The tailboom was twisted and bent, and displayed fire damage along half its length. A large concave dent on the left side of the boom, forward of the vertical fin, was consistent with impact damage. The tail rotor control tube was fractured by fire at the fuselage, and fractured by impact inside the boom. The vertical fin and horizontal stabilizer were twisted around each other and entwined with a broken tree trunk. The tail rotor was impact damaged but remained intact. Actuation of the tail rotor control bellcrank by hand resulted in correct and corresponding movement of the tail rotor crosshead and blades, as well as to the tail rotor push pull tube inside the tailboom to the point of the break.

Examination of the power poles on the east and west side of the river revealed three intact power lines crossed the river, with one power line severed and laying on the ground.

Examination of the rotorhead revealed a large diameter metal cable was coiled around the mast and swashplate, and wrapped over the rotorhead and blade grips.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Fentress County Medical Examiner, Knoxville, Tennessee, conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot on November 6, 2007. The reported cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries.”

The FAA Bioaeronautical Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing for the pilot.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to a representative of the utility company, the power line set crossed the creek about 150 feet above the creek bed, and the “neutral” line in the set was severed. The neutral line was the lowest of the set, and was spaced about 8 feet below the next wire above it.

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