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N275AE accident description

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Crash location 36.421945°N, 89.050556°W
Nearest city Union City, TN
36.424230°N, 89.057010°W
0.4 miles away
Tail number N275AE
Accident date 08 Nov 2017
Aircraft type Bell 206
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On November 8, 2017, about 1140 central standard time, a Bell 206-L3 helicopter, N275AE, operated by Air Evac EMS Inc., was substantially damaged during landing in Union City, Tennessee. The commercial pilot, flight nurse, and flight paramedic sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the positioning flight, conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, which departed Troy, Tennessee, about 1133.

According to the operator, the helicopter was flown to Union City, Tennessee, for a public relations event that was to take place at the Obion County Emergency Communications District 911 Center. Prior to the accident flight, the pilot was shown the requested landing zone (LZ), which was across the street from the center, next to a church and was previously utilized as a landing site by other helicopter pilots.

A company employee, equipped with a portable radio notified the crew that the LZ was secure and asked them to launch at 1124. At approximately 1135, he heard the pilot transmit his flight plan, which was acknowledged and read back. Approximately 3 minutes later, the helicopter flew overhead the LZ. The company employee transmitted that he was directly underneath the helicopter, and asked the pilot if he saw his "red truck," which was parked where he wanted him to land. He did not receive a response. He observed the helicopter flying a high and low "recon" utilizing left hand turns, and then watched the helicopter turn onto a final approach to the church parking lot adjacent to where he was located. He advised the pilot that he was clear of wires and again received no response.

The helicopter subsequently descended onto a steep grassy slope, and the front one-third of the upslope skid contacted the ground. As more weight was placed on the skids, the tailboom rapidly descended toward the ground. The stinger embedded into soft mud and tail rotor struck the ground. The sound of the engine changed, and the tailboom rose into the air at what the company employee estimated to be 60°. There was an "explosively loud bang" and the airframe slammed violently back down onto the slope. The helicopter then began to shake violently, and the main rotor separated from the mast.

According to the pilot, he had discussed the LZ with the company employee as he was unfamiliar with the LZ. The company employee described to him where there were powerlines along the road bordering the LZ and showed him where other pilots had landed in the past. He also thought he understood him to say that the parking lot at the LZ could be used as well.

As the helicopter approached the LZ, the pilot made radio contact with the company employee, who advised that the LZ was clear. The helicopter was on final approach to the parking lot, and had already passed the LZ that the company employee reported was utilized by other pilots when the pilot saw electrical wires running from poles on the lot. He called out wires, stopped the descent, and then decided that he could land on the grass just south of the lot, on what appeared to be flat terrain.

As the helicopter settled to the ground, the pilot felt the skids touch the sod and he began to lower the collective. Suddenly the helicopter's tail continued to fall, and the nose rose. He began to increase collective to stabilize the helicopter; however, the tail continued downward, and he felt the helicopter sliding backwards. He added more collective and felt two "thumps." Realizing his tail rotor had contacted something, he added forward cyclic and began to reduce power. The tail of the helicopter came up rapidly. He then applied aft cyclic and the tail came back down. The helicopter began shaking violently and rocking back and forth. He shut-off the fuel. A few seconds later the helicopter came to a stop and all occupants egressed.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records and pilot records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on December 14, 2016. He reported that he had accrued about 2,687 total hours of flight experience, about 2,327 of which was in the accident helicopter make and model.

According to FAA airworthiness and maintenance records, the helicopter was manufactured in 1986. Its most recent approved aircraft inspection program inspection was completed on October 24, 2017. At the time of the inspection, the helicopter had accrued about 13,103 total hours of operation, and the engine had accrued about 6,361 total hours of operation.

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