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N399HF accident description

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Crash location 39.942777°N, 74.845555°W
Nearest city Mount Holly, NJ
40.008445°N, 74.791274°W
5.4 miles away
Tail number N399HF
Accident date 31 Jul 2005
Aircraft type Schweizer 269C
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On July 31, 2005, about 1045 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer 269C, N399HF, was substantially damaged during a training maneuver at South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), Mount Holly, New Jersey. The certificated flight instructor and student pilot incurred minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the local flight, which originated at the airport. The instructional flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the flight instructor, they had been flying for about 45 minutes when "the student was informed that we were doing forced landings." During the takeoff climb, about 500 feet, the flight instructor rolled down the throttle, and the student entered an autorotation. "The glide was good," but the helicopter headed toward a line of trees, so the student turned it to the right, toward an open field. "The collective was raised to extend our glide, but the rotor rpm was decreasing and the forward airspeed had slowed also." The helicopter cleared the trees, but "at this point, the rotor rpm was below the power off range [and] the helicopter was approximately 60 feet agl." The flight instructor then "got on the controls, lowered the collective, rolled on the throttle, and flared the helicopter." The helicopter continued its descent, the tail hit the ground, and the helicopter subsequently impacted the ground in a level attitude, then rolled over.

According to the student pilot, before the flight, he and the instructor were discussing his upcoming "check ride." They discussed an engine failure during takeoff, which the student pilot had not previously practiced, and the flight instructor advised him that he would demonstrate it.

Before the maneuver occurred, the student pilot was at the controls, and when he had last noticed, the helicopter was headed straight, about 250 feet msl, and 30 knots of airspeed. The helicopter was climbing, and the flight instructor stated that he was "cutting the throttle." At the time, the student thought that the instructor was going to demonstrate the maneuver.

After the throttle cut, at what the student estimated was then 350 to 400 feet msl, the helicopter started "descending at a very steep rate." The student pilot thought they were going to hit some trees, so he advised the instructor, "and he did not immediately react." About 2 seconds later, the instructor stated "oh", and the student pilot "noticed [that] he tried to miss the trees and glide forward, and all I could see was our aircraft descending into the ground."

The student pilot also stated that the flight instructor had the controls during the maneuver, and that the student pilot was not in control of the helicopter when the throttle was cut. The flight instructor "never explained where we were going to land on this maneuver or where it was going was going to take place. All [he] said was that he was going to show me how the maneuver was performed."

NTSB Probable Cause

The flight instructor's delayed remedial action. A factor was the flight instructor's failure to ensure that both pilots knew who was performing the maneuver.

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