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N330JT accident description

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Crash location 43.420834°N, 71.780556°W
Nearest city Andover, NH
43.450075°N, 71.793691°W
2.1 miles away
Tail number N330JT
Accident date 27 Sep 2016
Aircraft type Tatkovsky James G Safari
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On September 27, 2016, about 1554 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Safari helicopter, N330JT, collided with trees and terrain during takeoff near Andover, New Hampshire. The pilot sustained serious injuries, and the helicopter was destroyed by a postcrash fire. The helicopter was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal, local flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which was originating at the time of the accident.

The pilot, who did not hold a rotorcraft-helicopter category and class rating, stated that he pushed the helicopter out of the barn and onto a concrete pad and then added 10 gallons of 100 low lead fuel which filled both fuel tanks. He then performed a preflight inspection and found no discrepancies. After starting the engine, under calm wind, he flew to a pasture 20 to 25 ft away and landed, then practiced hovering, rearward flight, and turns. He then positioned the helicopter to a different portion of the field, which allowed for takeoff to the northwest towards trees. He lifted to a 5 ft hover (reported to be higher than usual because of rising terrain ahead), and added full power noting 27 inches of manifold pressure. Noting that the engine and main rotor tachometers were in the green arcs, he initiated takeoff and accelerated to between 25 and 30 mph. When the helicopter was above the height of a treeline ahead, the helicopter began, "a more vertical ascent than I could counteract with cyclic", with a corresponding decrease in airspeed. He adjusted the collective to maintain altitude and applied forward cyclic control input to increase airspeed. As the flight continued over the trees, the helicopter did not respond to forward cyclic control input. When near the far end of the trees, the "helicopter came to a complete stop" though the sound from the main rotor blades seemed to have increased. The helicopter yawed to the right and the nose dropped, then the tail boom "went down and swung left taking the helicopter into the trees." He exited the helicopter and was taken to a hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Examination of the accident site revealed the helicopter came to rest in a wooded area resting against the base of a small tree. The helicopter was resting on its left side in a nose-low attitude, and was extensively damaged by a postcrash fire, which destroyed the cockpit, and also involved the engine compartment/main rotor area. The tail boom with tail rotor drive shaft was displaced down relative to normal orientation of the helicopter. All components necessary to sustain flight remained attached or were in close proximity. According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector who examined the helicopter, although it was extensively heat damaged, there was no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. The inspector did note that although the pilot had a repairman certificate, there was no permanent maintenance records or evidence of a condition inspection being performed since the helicopter was built in 2004. An FAA operations inspector reported that the pilot did not have a medical certificate, and was "…teaching himself to fly."

Although the pilot did not have a current medical certificate, he indicated there was nothing physically wrong with him that caused the accident. He reported having 154 hours total time in the accident make and model helicopter, of which 144 hours were as pilot-in-command. In the last 90 days he reported accruing 2 hours in the accident helicopter.

According to a representative of the helicopter manufacturer, unexpected movement of the collective could occur if either the collective spring or cable were to fail. As a result, they introduced installation of a redundant system consisting of a second spring and cable.

The pilot reported no failure or malfunction of the cyclic or collective flight controls from the cockpit to the main rotor. The helicopter was equipped with redundant collective springs and cables, neither of which were failed. The pilot did report that both springs exhibited evidence of slight elongation when compared with springs installed on an exemplar helicopter.

NTSB Probable Cause

The noncertificated pilot’s failure to maintain helicopter control during initial climb.

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