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N8373T accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 32.826945°N, 108.795555°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 Redrock, NM
32.686188°N, 108.738111°W
10.3 miles away
Tail number N8373T
Accident date 30 Oct 2001
Aircraft type Robinson R22 Beta II
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On October 30, 2001, approximately 1315 mountain standard time, a Robinson R22 Beta II, single-engine helicopter, N8373T, sustained substantial damage when it struck a tree and terrain while maneuvering in a canyon near Redrock, New Mexico. The helicopter was owned and operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 by Holt Helicopters, Inc., of Uvalde, Texas. The commercial pilot received serious injuries and his passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight, and a flight plan was not filed. The helicopter, being utilized for a cattle roundup, had departed the cattle pens a few minutes prior to the accident.

Ranch personnel and local authorities reported to the FAA inspectors, who responded to the accident site, that the helicopter departed to the east-northeast toward a draw which leads into the canyon from the cattle pens. The elevation at the cattle pens was approximately 5,000 feet with an upslope greater than 15 degrees toward the canyon. The wind in the canyon was from the south-southwest at 10 mph gusting to 15 mph, with a temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

At 1410, the weather observation facility at Silver City (30 nautical miles east of the accident site) reported clear skies, visibility 10 statute miles, wind 180 degrees at 5 knots, temperature 28 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit), dew point 04 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), and altimeter 30.20 inches of Mercury.

On May 5, 2001, the pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate with rotorcraft-helicopter rating. On October 20, 2000, the pilot was issued a second class medical certificate with the limitation "must wear corrective lenses." At the time of the accident, the pilot had accumulated a total of 695.4 hours flight time, of which 652.1 hours were in the accident make and model aircraft.

The 1997 model Robinson R22 Beta II, serial number 2746, was issued the FAA airworthiness certificate on October 6, 1997. The Lycoming engine model O-360-J2A, serial number L-35583-36A, rated at 131 horsepower was installed in the helicopter. Registration to the current owner was dated September 10, 1998. According to the maintenance records, the last 100 hour inspection was performed on October 26, 2001, at aircraft time of 1,165.4 hours. The operator reported the helicopter accumulated 31.0 hours since the last inspection.

The FAA inspectors found the helicopter resting on its right side along the "steep slope of a box canyon and about 100 feet below the ridge." Tree limbs and branches were found on the ground in the vicinity of the main wreckage. The Global Positioning System (GPS) location of the accident site was latitude 32 degrees 49.37 minutes North; longitude 108 degrees 47.44 minutes West, at an elevation of 5,080 feet. The inspectors found physical evidence that was consistent with tree impact along the leading edges of the main rotor blades. A main rotor blade pitch change rod was found separated; however, the separation surfaces exhibited 45 degree shear slips consistent with overload. The tail rotor drive shaft was intact and movement was noted at the tail rotor gearbox input quill when the tail rotor was rotated by hand. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the flight controls to the tail rotor and to the main rotor system. The right side of the cockpit was crushed inward. Numerous pieces of plexiglas were scattered about the main wreckage. The fuel selector valve was tywrapped to the "ON" position, and the fuel tank contained fuel. All components of the helicopter were accounted for at the accident site.

On the pilot's most recent medical application, his weight was given as 194 pounds. The FAA inspector estimated the passenger weight at 188 pounds. According to the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2), the fuel on board at the last takeoff was 90 pounds. According to the manufacturer, the maximum gross weight of the helicopter was 1,370 pounds with a basic empty weight of 824 pounds. The density altitude was calculated at 7,346 feet at the time of the accident.

According to the R22 Pilots Operating Handbook, at a calculated gross weight of 1,292 pounds, the maximum altitude to hover out of ground effect (OGE) is 5,200 feet, and the maximum altitude to hover in ground effect (IGE) is 9,200 feet.

The aircraft was released to the registered aircraft owner/operator.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance with terrain. Contributing factors were the mountainous terrain and high density altitude.

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