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N650MH accident description

Maine map... Maine list
Crash location 44.201944°N, 69.604444°W
Nearest city Whitefield, ME
44.212017°N, 69.615877°W
0.9 miles away
Tail number N650MH
Accident date 30 May 2014
Aircraft type Garlick Helicopters Inc Oh 58A+
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On May 30, 2014, about 1437 eastern daylight time, a Garlick Helicopters Inc. OH-58A+ helicopter, N650MH, was substantially damaged during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power while on approach to Maine Helicopters Helipad (ME59), Whitefield, Maine. The commercial pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the positioning flight, which departed Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB), Bar Harbor, Maine, about 1350. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

In a telephone interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot stated he departed BHB with the fuel gauge indicating 225-250 pounds of fuel. Twenty minutes into the flight, the MASTER CAUTION warning light "flickered" and the fuel gauge indicated 100-125 lbs of fuel. Five minutes later, the MASTER CAUTION warning light flickered again, and the fuel gauge indicated 100-125 lbs of fuel. Five minutes after that, the MASTER CAUTION warning light flickered a third time at a fuel reading of 100-125 lbs of fuel, and thirty seconds later, at 50-100 lbs, the engine stopped producing power.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that he departed BHB with 37 gallons (245 lbs) of fuel on board, and that the flight was "uneventful" until the MASTER CAUTION warning light "flashed." He was unable to decipher the caution panel segment light associated with the brief illumination of the warning light, and shortly thereafter, the helicopter experienced a total loss of engine power over wooded terrain. The pilot entered autorotation, maneuvered the helicopter to an area of the shortest timber, and cushioned the landing as the helicopter entered the trees. The helicopter came to rest upright, and the pilot egressed without assistance.

The pilot told first responders that he "had an issue with fuel" and told his employer immediately following the accident that he "ran out of fuel."

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second class medical certificate was issued on June 19, 2013. The pilot reported 3,723 total hours of flight experience, of which 1,475 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

According to FAA records, the helicopter was manufactured in 1971 by Bell Helicopter for the U.S. Army as an OH-58A and was later remanufactured by Garlick Helicopters for civilian use. According to company records, its most recent 100-hour inspection was completed March 24, 2014, at 10,726 total aircraft hours. The helicopter had accrued 91 hours since that date.

Interpolation of performance charts revealed that the fuel consumption rate at 100 knots was approximately 200 lbs per hour.

A preliminary examination of the wreckage was performed by an FAA aviation safety inspector. He reported substantial damage to the fuselage and tailboom, and confirmed flight and engine control continuity. Operation of the fuel boost pump was also confirmed, and approximately 10-11 gallons (65 pounds) of fuel was recovered from the helicopter, of which 1.3 gallons was unusable.

A detailed examination of the helicopter was performed by the airframe and engine manufacturers under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The integrity and continuity of the fuel system was confirmed, the fuel boost pump was operational, and the LOW FUEL segment light alternately extinguished and illuminated within the manufacturer's limits as fuel was added and drained from the helicopter. The light illuminated and stayed illuminated with approximately 10 gallons of fuel in the tank.

A detailed examination of the fuel system and associated warnings, airframe, engine controls, and fluid and pneumatic lines revealed no preimpact mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The engine was started, and ran on the airframe continuously and without interruption. The throttle was opened fully, and the engine ran continuously at 103 percent. When the throttle was reduced to flight idle, the engine ran above the manufacturer's flight idle range, due to impact-related deformation of the engine controls between the throttle and the engine.

Examination of the MASTER CAUTION warning light and associated segment panel lights revealed that the segment lights were set to the "dim" position.

According to the Operator's Manual, the corrective action for the illumination of the MASTER CAUTION was, "Check for Caution Panel segment light illumination, if none, LAND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE."

According to the Operator's Manual:

d. Low Fuel Quantity Caution Light: The LOW FUEL caution light, (figure 2-13 and figure 2-14), located in caution panel, should illuminate when there is approximately 20 minutes or 65 to 98 pounds of fuel remaining. The illumination of this light does not mean a fixed time remains. When the 20 minute fuel caution light is on, the fuel remaining may not be available except when the aircraft is in level or coordinated flight. The 20 minute fuel caution light in conjunction with a fuel boost caution light may indicate impending fuel starvation.

NTSB Probable Cause

A total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to land as soon as possible when the master caution warning light first illuminated as prescribed and his failure to ensure the proper setting of the caution panel segment lights before the flight.

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