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N500SD accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.190555°N, 104.682500°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Albuquerque, NM
35.084491°N, 106.651137°W
111.5 miles away
Tail number N500SD
Accident date 06 Aug 2005
Aircraft type Hughes 369HS
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On August 6, 2005, approximately 0045 mountain daylight time, a Hughes 369HS, N500SD, operated by the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department and piloted by a commercial pilot, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during an emergency descent after hovering in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The local public use flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot was seriously injured and the observer sustained minor injuries. The flight originated at Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (ABQ) approximately 2245.

According to the report submitted by the pilot, "The helicopter was conducting a law enforcement patrol over an urban area. The two persons aboard the helicopter were wearing night vision goggles and assisting local police officers on the ground who were attempting to locate a burglary suspect. The pilot established a right hand turning orbit over the ground approximately 400 feet agl. On about the fifth orbit, the crew heard a very loud noise originating from inside the helicopter. The pilot stated that he did not know what happened but knew there was an emergency. The helicopter shook and began to turn right. The pilot immediately lowered the collective and entered autorotation. The pilot dove the helicopter to achieve approximately 50 knots indicated airspeed, flared, and the helicopter impacted terrain in the backyard of a residence. According to an FAA inspector and local law enforcement officials, the main rotor contacted a wooden picket fence upon touchdown." All four main rotor blades were bent or separated, the tail boom was severed by the main rotor, both landing skids were bent laterally, and 6 inches of the tail rotor separated. All major components were located at or in the vicinity of the accident site.

According to a police officer who witnessed the accident, "I heard a loud pop come from the helicopter. Immediately upon hearing the noise, I looked up and saw the helicopter veer suddenly and begin a nose dive towards the ground. I could hear the RPM's of the engine increase dramatically while the helicopter was losing altitude. I lost sight of the helicopter and heard a loud crash to the north."

According to a report submitted by a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department detective, post accident examination revealed a "small hole with irregular shape that was low on the Plexiglas of the left front door." Another similar hole was discovered in the Plexiglas above the right front door. The detective stated, "I ran a trajectory rod into the hole and observed that it passed through the left rudder pedal that apparently had been shattered into several smaller pieces. I inspected the carpet on the left front side of the aircraft and observed a piece of metal melted into the carpet that appeared to be a scrap of copper. I was advised that the electrical systems of the aircraft were still intact and there was no evidence of an electrical fire that may have accounted for the copper. I ran another trajectory rod through the hole in the left front door and out the roof of the aircraft and observed that the angle of both rods was approximately the same."

FAA investigators arrived on scene and dislodged an additional piece of copper from the pilot's left seat belt strap. According to tests conducted by a forensic and tool marks examiner, large quantities of vaporized lead were discovered in the cockpit, which are consistent with rifle fire. The tests indicated that two separate shots were fired. One penetrated the front of the helicopter and the other penetrated the left side of the helicopter. Post accident examination revealed a .30-.06 rifle bullet (fired from a high-powered rifle) severed the left anti-torque pedal at the connecting point of the vertical control tube. The bullet then ricocheted into the pilot's leg.

An engine inspection was made by Rolls Royce at their Indianapolis, IN facility. No anomalies were found that would preclude the engine from developing power. According to a NTSB investigator who witnessed the engine inspection, "visible damage to the engine was limited to the compressor section. The damage appeared to be caused by ingestion of foreign materials. There was no evidence of damage caused directly by small fire arms.". A suspect has been arrested and is being held on a $1.8 million bail. The suspect has been charged with assault with intent to commit a violent felony on a peace officer and criminal damage to property.

NTSB Probable Cause

the bullet(s), which severed the helicopter's left tail rotor pedal. Contributing factors were the severed anti-torque pedal and the unsuitable terrain for landing.

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