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N503TH accident description

New Jersey map... New Jersey list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city North Bergen, NJ
40.804267°N, 74.007917°W
Tail number N503TH
Accident date 05 May 1994
Aircraft type Robinson R22A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On May 5, 1994, at 1250 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R-22A, helicopter, N503TH, operated by Titan Helicopter Academy, of Millville, New Jersey, struck an unmarked static wire and impacted on a roadway in North Bergen, New Jersey. There was a fire. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The helicopter was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan had been filed for the training flight which was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The flight originated at Millville, with one stop before Teterboro, New Jersey, where the helicopter was refueled. At Teterboro, the pilot requested to depart via helicopter route SIERRA to the Hudson River. At 1244:30, the local controller transmitted,

Helicopter three tango hotel, proceed outbound on the sierra, wind three six zero at one five.

At 1249:01, the Teterboro local controller transmitted, "Helicopter three tango hotel, squawk VFR, frequency change approved." At 1249:08, the following reply was received, "Uh, three tangle hotel." No further transmissions were received from the helicopter.

The accident occurred where the SIERRA route, traveling in an easterly direction, crossed a set of high tension wires which run north and south. The helicopter struck the wire, approximately 150 feet above the ground. The helicopter then fell to a roadway (NJ495), approximately one mile east of the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, in the eastbound number one lane.

The helicopter slid into the center divider and came to rest.

Several witnesses saw the eastbound helicopter make contact with the wires. Some of the witnesses reported the helicopter engaged in maneuvering before striking the wires. Several witnesses said the helicopter was on fire after the wire strike.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at location 40 degrees, 46 minutes, 36.3 seconds North, and 74 degrees, 02 minutes, 38.8 seconds West.


The static wire that was struck by the helicopter separated and fell across 230,000 volt power lines, and down into a vehicle park and ride, parking lot. Approximately 100 vehicles received damage, with several of them being destroyed by fire.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine, and rotorcraft - helicopter ratings. He held an FAA 2nd class Airman Medical Certificate, with no limitations, issued on January 7, 1994. According to his log book, he had a total time of 172 hours, with 113 hours in helicopters. He was working on his commercial pilot certificate, rotorcraft - helicopter pilot certificate at the time of the accident.

The passenger occupied the left seat and held a commercial pilot certificate for single and multi-engine airplanes, and rotorcraft-helicopter. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate for airplanes and rotorcraft-helicopters.


The helicopter was a 1985 year model Robinson R-22A helicopter. It was powered by a Lycoming O-320-B2C engine which developed 160 horse power. The engine and airframe had been overhauled and had accumulated 779 hours since the overhaul. At the time of the accident the airframe had 2777 hours and the helicopter had flown 91 hours since its last 100 hour inspection.


The helicopter was examined at the accident site on May 5, 1994, and at the High Point Garage, in Union City, New Jersey, on May 6, 1994.

According to measurements and a wreckage diagram submitted by the North Bergen Police Department, impact on the roadway occurred 301.5 feet beyond the power lines. The impact occurred between the left two lanes of eastbound traffic. The helicopter then made contact with the cement center divider and came to rest 201.5 feet from initial road contact.

All major components of the helicopter, except for portions of the main rotor blades, were accounted for on the road. Pieces of main rotor blade were found on both sides of the roadway in a vehicle parking lot.

According to a written report from a NTSB Aerospace Engineer:

...The helicopter was found with crush marks to the cabin similar to a 30 degree nose low attitude and a 40 degree right bank at impact...The "A" blade was recovered...[with] parallel marks along the bottom outboard section similar to wire marks...The "B" blade was found...with leading edge abrasions similar to wire strikes...No evidence was found that indicate pre- impact failures or malfunctions with either main rotor blade...The pitch change control links were found fractured similar to overload...No evidence was found of main rotor strikes [to the tail boom] or attachment fitting failure...The right skid was found with parallel marks along the outside forward portion similar to spiral wrapped wire marks...The caution and warning lights were examined...All bulbs were found intact with no stretching.

In addition curved pieces of plexiglass were found with marks similar to wire strikes.

The engine was examined and no evidence of a mechanical failure was found.


Autopsies were conducted by Dr. Phito J.B. Pierre-Louise, M.D., Assistant State Medical Examiner, State of New Jersey, in Newark, New Jersey on May 6th, 1994.

Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results were negative for drugs and alcohol.


Some of the witnesses reported the helicopter was on fire prior to impacting the road. None of the witnesses reported the helicopter was on fire prior to the wire strike.


PREVIOUS FLIGHTS FROM TETERBORO IN HELICOPTERS The private pilot had no previous trips to the New York area. The flight instructor had 3 previous trips in helicopters from Teterboro to Millville in the preceding 14 months. All involved night flights. Examination of his pilot log book found no evidence of day helicopter departure from Teterboro to Millville.

POWER LINES According to the power company, the static wires were mounted on the top of two towers, 172 feet (north tower), and 162 feet (south tower) above the ground, and which were 998 feet apart. Ground elevation around the towers was approximately 20 feet.

HELICOPTER ROUTE SIERRA Examination of the New York, Helicopter Route Chart found in the wreckage, revealed the wires that were struck, were depicted on the chart. According to the Airman's Information Manual, "...these charts enhance helicopter operator access into, egress from, and operation within selected high density traffic areas...." No specific altitudes were found on the chart for the various routes.

At the accident site, the road was elevated on pillars. The terrain was rising to the east and approximately 300 yards past where the wire strike occurred, the terrain rose over 200 feet. Buildings in area are from 100 to 150 feet high, above the terrain.

MINIMUM ALTITUDES FOR HELICOPTERS According to 14 CFR Part 91.110 (d) Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed...if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface.

RECORDED RADAR DATA Recorded radar data obtained from New York Terminal Area Radar Control revealed the helicopter climbed to a maximum altitude of 600 feet, and then maintained between 400 and 600 feet until 1249:28 when the helicopter began a descent. The last radar hit recorded an altitude of 200 feet (+/- 50 feet) MSL, and was located 1076 feet west of, and 836 feet north of the accident site. The magnetic heading between the last two radar contacts 170 degrees magnetic.

The transponder code change was observed 18 seconds after the transmission from the Teterboro Control Tower, and 10 seconds after the pilot replied. The descent began 27 seconds after the transmission from Teterboro Control Tower and 20 seconds after the pilot replied.

WRECKAGE RELEASE The aircraft wreckage was released to Titan Helicopter Services on May 9, 1994.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain adequate visual lookout and adequate obstacle clearance, which resulted in an inflight collision with a static wire.

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