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N5049F accident description

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Crash location 42.312500°N, 85.463611°W
Nearest city Comstock, MI
42.286708°N, 85.513337°W
3.1 miles away
Tail number N5049F
Accident date 16 May 2008
Aircraft type Fairchild Hiller FH-1100
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 16, 2008, at 1153 eastern daylight time, a Fairchild Hiller FH-1100, N5049F, collided with a tree and the terrain in the Chipman Preserve, Comstock, Michigan. The pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was destroyed. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated around 1100 from the Almena Airport (2C5), Paw Paw, Michigan.

The pilot purchased the helicopter the day prior to the accident. He and another pilot who was a certificated flight instructor (CFI) flew the helicopter from Wisconsin to the pilot's private airstrip, the Larry D. Boven Airstrip (2MI3), Kalamazoo, Michigan.

On the day of the accident, the accident pilot flew the helicopter from 2MI3 to 2C5, where he picked up the CFI at 0900. The CFI stated they flew approximately one hour during which time they practiced maneuvers and autorotations. He stated the helicopter was operating normally and the pilot was not having any problems flying the helicopter. The CFI stated the pilot dropped him off at 2C5 and departed for 2MI3 around 1100.

One witness reported seeing the helicopter flying in a northbound direction, approximately 100 feet above the trees. This witness reported hearing a loss of engine noise and the impact. The pilot's wife stated he was returning home from flying with his flight instructor when the accident occurred. She stated he flew over their property and was returning to land when she heard the impact.


The pilot-in-command, age 68, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, single-engine sea, instrument airplane, and rotorcraft-helicopter ratings. The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on April 8, 2008. The medical certificate contained the limitation, "Holder shall possess glasses that correct for near vision. Not valid for any class after April 30, 2009." A review of the pilot's medical information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Medical Division revealed that on May 2, 2008, the FAA sent a letter to the pilot requesting additional medical information. The letter stated that the pilot had 30 days to provide the information, or his application for the medical certificate would be denied.

A review of the pilot's logbooks revealed he began flying in 1967. The last entry in the most recent logbook was dated March 28, 2008. This logbook indicated the pilot had a total flight time of 2,117.5 hours, of which 897.5 hours were in helicopters. There were no entries showing that the pilot had previous flight experience in FH-1100 helicopters. The pilot had received a biennial flight review on March 10, 2008, in a Bell 206 helicopter.


The accident helicopter was a 1970 Fairchild Hiller FH-1100, serial number 196. The helicopter was a single-engine, two-bladed, five place light helicopter that was manufactured by the Hiller Aircraft Corporation. In 1999, the type certificate was sold to FH-1100 Manufacturing Corporation.

The helicopter was issued a Normal Category Airworthiness Certificate when it was manufactured. In 1992, the helicopter was issued a Restricted Airworthiness Certificate for the purpose of aerial application operations. According to FAA records, the helicopter currently had a Restricted Airworthiness Certificate. The airworthiness certificate in the helicopter, dated December 3, 1990, listed the category as Normal. Although the accident pilot purchased the helicopter on the day prior to the accident, it was still registered to the previous owner.

The helicopter had a total of 5,012.4 hours on the airframe at the time of the accident. At the time of the accident the hour meter read 1,485.9 hours. According to aircraft logbooks, the last annual inspection was completed on March 29, 2008, at an aircraft total time of 4,991.5 hours and an hour meter reading of 1,465 hours.

The helicopter was powered by a 317 shaft-horsepower, Allison 250-C18B turbo shaft engine, serial number CAE 800605B. The last recorded engine total time was at the annual inspection on March 29, 2008, when the time was recorded as being 4,178 hours.

The last recorded fuel stop was at the Michigan City Airport (MGC), Michigan City, Indiana, on May 15, 2008, while en route from Wisconsin to 2MI3. Fueling records show the helicopter was serviced with 48 gallons of Jet A fuel. The CFI that flew in the helicopter just prior to the accident stated the fuel gauge was unusual. He stated he remembered looking at the fuel gauge, but did not recall how much fuel was on board. The FH-1100 flight manual states the helicopter has a fuel capacity of 68.5 gallons of which 66.9 gallons is usable. FH-1100 specifications state the helicopter has a maximum endurance of 3 hours at 5,000 feet and that it consumes approximately 22 gallons per hour. The previous owner of N5049F stated an average cruise speed was between 85 and 90 miles per hour.

According to FAA records, the accident pilot was the ninth owner of the helicopter since 2002. In January 2008, the helicopter was inspected by the FAA as part of their Suspected Unapproved Parts Program.


The weather conditions reported at the Battle Creek International Airport (AZO), Kalamazoo, Michigan, 5 miles west-southwest of the accident site, at 1153, were: Wind variable at 3 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; few clouds at 10,000 feet; temperature 17 degrees Celsius; dew point 4 degrees Celsius; altimeter 29.92 inches of mercury.


The wreckage was located at the top of a ridge in the Chipman Preserve, a 122 acre parcel of primarily wooded land used for outdoor recreation. The accident site was approximately a half mile south of the pilot's airstrip which was visible from the site. The wreckage was lined up with the south end of the airstrip. The helicopter contacted a tree, approximately 40 feet in height that was located near a small clearing which was surrounded by a heavily wooded area. The tree was severed approximately 15 feet above the ground and the helicopter came to rest about 20 feet from the base of the tree. Several large branches were lying around and on top of the wreckage. One large branch penetrated the bottom of the helicopter and extended through the cockpit near the left front seat.

The helicopter came to rest on its right side which was crushed inward from the impact. The windscreen was broken out and the portion of the fuselage from the instrument panel forward was partially separated from the remainder of the fuselage. The bottom of the helicopter between the aft cabin area and the tail boom was crushed. The tail boom was bent upward approximately 45 degrees and partially separated from the cabin area. The main rotor assembly and the tail rotor assembly, including all of the blades, remained attached to the helicopter. The right skid remained attached to the helicopter and the left skid had separated from its cross tubes. First responders to the accident site reported there was no smell of fuel in the area.

The Safety Board's on scene investigation began on May 20, 2008, after the wreckage had been moved to a secured facility. The area forward of the instrument panel, including the panel itself, was crushed upward. The cockpit floor was crushed upward. The top right side of the cockpit was crushed inward and down. Both front entry doors were intact. Both rear doors were separated from the fuselage. The left seat was intact and the entire seat was bent to the right. The upper right corner of the seat back on the right seat was bent forward. The right and left seat belts and shoulder harnesses were intact. The left seat had a three-point rotational type buckle and the right seat had a flip type buckle. The rear seat area was intact.

Continuity was established from the collectives to the servos. All of the pitch control rods for both blades were broken. Continuity was established between both cyclic controls and the swash plate. Both main rotor blades were attached and intact. The blue blade was bent downward beginning about 1/3 the blade distance from the root. The yellow blade was bent downward mid-span of the blade. The lead-lag rod between the cuff and the blue blade was broken.

The left and right side anti-torque pedals remained attached and continuity was established from the pedals to where the cables were separated at the area of the tail boom separation. Continuity was established from those breaks rearward to the tail rotor. The separated ends of the cables showed broom straw signatures. The tail rotor drive shaft was separated at the same location. The three tail rotor drive shaft couplings in the separated tail boom were intact. The tail rotor and the tail rotor drive shaft rotated freely when the shaft was rotated by hand. The right tail boom fin was intact and the left fin was separated. One tail rotor blade was bent approximately 9-inches from the root. The outboard section of the other blade was separated approximately 9-inches from its root.

The fuel boost switch and the fuel shutoff lever were in the on/open positions. The fuel control throttle lever was in the cutoff position and it was noted that the actuating cable had been stretched and torn from its sleeve. The airframe fuel filter was removed and found to be free of debris. The fuel filter bowl was full of fuel and fuel was present in the fuel line leading from the bowl. The fuel tank was drained and it contained a total of approximately 2 quarts of fuel. The fuel was clean, and the appearance and odor was consistent with Jet A fuel.

The annunciator panel light bulbs were inspected. There were two bulbs for each annunciator light. All of the bulbs were intact. None of the bulb elements were stretched or broken. The canon plug to the annunciator panel was burnt and showed signs of arcing.

The main gearbox oil level was zero. The aircraft oil reservoir sight glass indicated more then 3 quarts of oil were in the 5.2 quart capacity reservoir. Oil streaking was visible on the bottom of the fuselage below and aft of the engine. The source of the oil was not identified.

The main transmission remained attached to the helicopter. One of the mounting legs on the left side was bent. The main transmission rotated freely in both directions when turned at the rotor head. The engine to transmission driveshaft was engaged at both the engine and transmission.

The fluid level indicators on both primary and secondary hydraulic pump/reservoir units, Hydrapac's, indicated that each unit was 3/4 full of fluid. However, the secondary pump contained only residual fluid.

The exterior of the engine contained sooting as did the inside of the engine cowling. The right side of the engine sustained impact damage. The engine lower mounting bolt at the accessory gearbox was pulled out of its mount and the left side mount was bent. The compressor bleed air line fractured at the 90 degree elbow. The N1 shaft rotated freely from the compressor to the accessory gear box starter generator fan. The N2 shaft would initially not rotate; however, after the engine was removed the N2 shaft was free to rotate a few degrees before binding occurred.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot on May 17, 2008, at the Sparrow Hospital by the Kalamazoo County Coroner's Office. The autopsy report listed the cause of death as "Multiple blunt force injuries due to a helicopter crash."

A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared for the pilot by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Metoprolol was detected in the blood and urine.


The transmission was torn down and inspected. No anomalies were noted other than those which resulted from both internal and external impact damage.

Both Hydrapac hydraulic pumps were x-rayed, bench tested, and the secondary pump was torn down for inspection. The fluid flow rates and pressures for the primary pump were within tolerances. The fluid flow rates and pressures for the secondary pump were slightly out of tolerance. The teardown inspection of the secondary pump revealed an area of corrosion on the cylinder bore near the top side of the piston.

The engine was torn down for further inspection. The teardown did not reveal any mechanical failures or malfunctions which would have prevented normal operation of the engine.

The fuel control unit and power turbine governor were both bench tested. Functional testing of these units revealed results that were either within tolerances or slightly out of tolerance to a degree where the normal operation of the units would not have been affected.

The distance from where the helicopter was last fueled to the pilot's airstrip is approximately 82 miles. On the day of the accident the pilot flew approximately 22 miles from his airstrip to 2C5 where he picked up his flight instructor. They then flew in the local area for about 1 hour. The CFI stated the pilot departed 2C5 about 1100 to return to his airstrip. The accident occurred at 1153.

NTSB Probable Cause

A loss of engine power in flight due to fuel exhaustion resulting from the pilot's inadequate fuel management. Contributing to the accident was the unsuitable terrain for a forced landing.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.