Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cessna T210N, N829MB: Accident occurred August 05, 2011 in Amarillo, Texas

NTSB Identification: CEN11LA552 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 05, 2011 in Amarillo, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/26/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA T210N, registration: N829MB
Injuries: 2 Serious,3 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot noticed a loss of engine power while descending to land, and he made several unsuccessful attempts to restart the engine. The pilot was unable to maintain altitude and made a forced landing to rugged, uneven terrain north of the runway. During the landing roll, the airplane struck a gully and flipped over. The pilot said he did not observe any fuel leaking from the airplane after the accident, and a postaccident inspection of the grassy area around and under the airplane revealed no discoloration from fuel exposure. Examination of the fuel system revealed no mechanical anomalies or blockages, and the fuel selector was set to the right fuel tank. A review of fuel receipts and data downloaded from the engine analyzer revealed there should have been about 58 gallons of fuel on board at the time of the accident. However, only 20 gallons of fuel (15 gallons from the right tank and 5 gallons from the left tank) were drained from the airplane. The missing 38 gallons could not be accounted for.

Data from the engine analyzer was downloaded and confirmed a loss of engine power, but it did not identify the cause of the loss of engine power. About 1 minute later, both values dropped to zero. When the engine was test run, it started immediately and ran through its full power band without interruption. No mechanical anomalies were noted that would have precluded the engine from operating normally. Even with a discrepancy of 38 gallons, there was still adequate fuel available for the engine to continue operating. It could not be determined what caused the loss of engine power.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination of the engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.


On August 5, 2011, at 1742 central daylight time, a Cessna T210N, N829MB, sustained substantial damage after it made a forced landing to a field after a total loss of engine power about 15 miles northeast of the Rick Husband/Amarillo International Airport, near Amarillo, Texas. The airline transport pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries and two passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Muy Flying, LLC, San Antonio, Texas. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Moore County Airport (DUX), Dumas, Texas, at 1712. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the business flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The purpose of the flight was to fly company executives to conduct site visits in Texas and New Mexico. The flight originated earlier that day in San Antonio, Texas, with its first stop in Amarillo, Texas. From Amarillo they flew to Clovis, New Mexico, and then to Dumas, Texas. From Dumas, they flew to Amarillo, which was the accident flight.
According to the pilot, when the airplane was 20 miles from Amarillo, air traffic control cleared him for a visual approach to runway 22, and he initiated a descent from 6,000 feet to 5,000 feet mean sea level (msl). To enter the descent, the pilot reduced manifold pressure from 29 inches to 23 inches, and left the RPM at 2,500. As the airplane began to descend, the pilot noted the descent rate was exceeding 1,000 feet per minute, so he added throttle and adjusted his pitch attitude, but the airspeed continued to decrease and he added more throttle. At that time, he noted the tachometer indicated 2,300 RPM, the manifold pressure was less than 20 inches, and the cylinder head temperature light on the engine analyzer was blinking the "cold" warning.

As the airplane descended through 4,800 feet msl (approximately 1,200 feet above ground level), the pilot applied full throttle. The manifold pressure rose to 25 inches of manifold pressure with no noticeable change in thrust. He then applied full rich mixture and checked the fuel gauges. Both tanks indicated approximately 3/4 full. The pilot then turned the fuel pump on with no effect. He confirmed the ignition was on "both" and attempted to re-start the engine, but to no avail.
The pilot said that he then switched the fuel selector from the right tank to the left tank and repeated the process, but he still could not get the engine to re-start. The pilot contacted the tower and told him that he would be making a forced landing to a field about 15 miles north east of the airport due to an engine failure. The pilot landed with full flaps and the gear extended on rugged and uneven terrain between a set of power lines and an irrigation system. The airplane touched down on the main gear at 75 knots, ballooned, then settled back onto the ground. The pilot said he applied maximum breaking to avoid losing control, but the vegetation and down slope of the terrain did not aid in slowing the airplane down. The airplane approached a gully and he applied full back pressure on the control column in an attempt to raise the nose high enough to prevent the airplane from tipping over. The nose gear impacted the other side of the gully and broke off, before the airplane dug into the bank and flipped directly over onto its back.

All five people were able to egress the airplane and there was no fire. The pilot reported that he did not observe any fuel leaking from the airplane after the accident.


The pilot held an airline transport pilot rating for airplane single and multi-engine airplane. He also held a certified flight instructor certificate for airplane single and multi-engine airplane, and instrument airplane. His last FAA Second Class medical was issued on July 22, 2011. The pilot reported a total of 4,200 flight hours; of which 25 hours were in the Cessna T210N airplane.


An on-scene examination of the airplane was conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector and a representative of Cessna Aircraft Company. The on-scene exam revealed that the airplane sustained substantial damage to the vertical stabilizer, rudder, and the firewall. The fuel selector was set to the right tank and could not be moved as a result of impact damage. The aircraft salvage crew drained approximately 15 gallons from the right wing fuel tank and 5 gallons from the left wing fuel tank. There was no evidence of any fuel spill at the accident site. The green vegetation under both secured wing caps and also the engine was not discolored from exposure to fuel.

The airplane was moved to a secure facility and an additional examination of the airplane was performed under the supervision of the Investigator-in-Charge (IIC). The entire fuel system of the airplane was examined for any blockages or leaks. None were found. The fuel selector was removed and no mechanical anomalies were noted.


The engine was test-run at Continental Motors, Incorporated, on October 18, 2011, under the supervision of the Investigator-in-Charge (IIC). The engine started immediately and ran through its full power band without interruption. No mechanical anomalies were noted that would have precluded the engine from operating normally.

A JPI EDM-930 engine monitor was removed from the airplane and sent to the NTSB Research and Engineering Laboratory for download and analysis. The EDM recording contained approximately 34 hours of data over 33 power cycles. The last four flights, including the accident flight, were downloaded from the unit. The four flights were automatically assigned a flight number by the EDM (1609, 1610, 1611, and 1612 respectively). Approximately 15 minutes after the unit began recording data for the first flight (1609), the Engine-1 (Eng1) Fuel-Used indication was reset. After the unit was powered for flight 1610, another reset of the Eng1 Fuel-Used indication was accomplished. No further resets of the fuel used indications were performed for the remainder of the recorded flights.

The Eng1 Fuel-Used parameter information is received from a fuel flow transducer. The purpose of the engine fuel flow transducer is to measure fuel flow into the engine. The EDM does not receive any information from the fuel quantity system on the airplane. The JPI EDM-930 Pilot’s Guide provides the following guidance with regards to fuel management:

"For fuel calculations to be accurate, it is imperative that you inform the EDM-930 of the correct amount of fuel aboard the aircraft. Do not rely on fuel flow instruments to determine the fuel level in tanks."

The pilot reported that he departed San Antonio with full tanks, for a total of 90 gallons (87 gallons usable). The airplane burned approximately 52 gallons of fuel en route to Amarillo, which was consistent with the fuel burn rate registered on the EDM. In Amarillo, the pilot purchased 30 gallons of fuel, but he could not recall if he visually checked the fuel tanks prior to departure. At the time the airplane departed for Clovis, there shoud have been approximately 68 gallons of fuel on board. The flight to Clovis burned a total of 15 gallons (also consistent with the EDM) and when they departed for Dumas there should have been approximately 53 gallons on board. The flight to Dumas burned approximately 16 gallons of fuel (again, consistent with the EDM), for a total of 37 gallons at the time they landed. The pilot purchased 30 gallons of fuel on Dumas, for what should have been an approximate total of 67 gallons on board when they departed for Amarillo. The pilot said he watched the fueler fuel the airplane at Dumas, but he did not visually check the fuel level prior to departure. According to the EDM, the 29 minute flight to Amarillo burned approximately 9 gallons of fuel, which meant that there should have been approximately 58 gallons of fuel on board at the time of the accident. However, only 20 gallons of fuel was drained from the airplane postaccident. The missing 38 gallons could not be accounted for.

The EDM data for the accident flight was plotted into several graphs. The data revealed that the engine exhaust gas temperature (EGT) temperature on all six cylinders dropped abruptly from approximately 1,500 degrees F to approximately 300 degrees in three minutes. During this time, the fuel pressure and the fuel flow levels fluctuated for one minute before the fuel flow returned to the previous cruise level. The fuel pressure only returned to 14 psi versus the previous cruise value of 15 psi. About a minute later both values dropped to zero.

A pilot attempted to restart his plane’s engine after a frightening loss of power that caused the single-engine aircraft to crash-land outside Amarillo earlier this month, a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board said. All five people on board suffered injuries that authorities said were not life-threatening.

Air traffic control cleared 39-year-old Robert John Corcoran of Downsville, La., the pilot of the Cessna T210N, to land on Runway 22 at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport about 5:40 p.m. Aug. 5, the report said. Corcoran began to descend from 6,000 feet to 5,000, but the plane descended faster than it should have, the report said.

Corcoran throttled-up and tried to lift the nose, but the plane continued its dangerous descent. A warning light told him the engine was cold. Corcoran tried applying more throttle, but there was no response from the plane. Both fuel gauges indicated three-fourths of a tank of fuel.

Corcoran switched the fuel leading to the engine from his right tank to his left tank and back, but still could not restart the engine, the report said.

He then contacted the tower and told air-traffic controllers he was going to try to ditch the plane in a field because of an engine failure.

The airplane was traveling about 86 miles per hour when it touched down between power lines and an irrigation system, bounced back into the air and then came back down to the ground, the report said. Corcoran told investigators he applied maximum braking, but the downslope prevented him from stopping. When the plane crossed through a gully, the nose struck the ground on the far side and broke off, investigators said.

The plane then dug into the bank and flipped upside-down.

All five people aboard were able to get out of the plane, but two had serious injuries, the report said.

British Columbia pilot returns home after air-show crash. Steen Skybolt Biplane, C-FIPS.

NANAIMO, B.C. — The Wings and Wheels air show crowd hushed instantly on June 4 when a plane lost altitude and crashed during a performance east of a runway at the Nanaimo Airport.

After the spectacular crash, the stunned crowd watched a B.C. Ambulance chopper lift off, carrying amateur pilot Dr. Bill Phipps, 71, to Victoria General Hospital, not knowing if Phipps would live or die.

Phipps, a general practitioner in Campbell River, B.C., arrived home from hospital on the weekend. He has no recollection of the crash of his homemade Steen Skybolt biplane at the airshow, sponsored by the Nanaimo Flying Club. The incident brought the first Nanaimo air show in 40 years to an early end.

Speaking from his home in Campbell River on Monday, Phipps said he's doing well but still has "a way to go."

The crash fractured one of his vertebrae and he received multiple other injuries both internal and external.

John DeVries, who witnessed the crash, told the Nanaimo Daily News that Phipps had been attempting a quarter barrel roll before he had to correct his path and try to regain control.

"His right wing clipped the ground and he did a cartwheel. There was just dust and no explosion, smoke or fire," DeVries said following the crash.

"It was pretty traumatic," Nanaimo RCMP media spokesman Const. Gary O'Brien said at the time.

Fellow air show pilot Sigmund Sort of Qualicum Beach, B.C., said he was surprised Phipps was involved in the crash.

Sort acknowledged Phipps' skill in the cockpit, saying he is highly experienced and had built the plane that bore his name in the call sign, C-FIPS.

"He affectionately called his plane Rag Bags," Sort said. "It's a kit plane made of white fabric and a wooden frame."

For much of his time in hospital in Victoria, Phipps' jaw was wired shut as he had numerous facial fractures due to the crash. Phipps said he's been performing at air shows for 17 years in the biplane he built with a friend.

"Frankly, I'm still unaware as to what actually happened. I don't know if it was my mistake or if something was wrong with the airplane," he said Monday.

"I can't even recall flying at the air show. I remember arriving in Nanaimo and looking at a number of the other planes and vehicles there."

He's been in contact with officials with the Transportation Safety Board, who visited him while he was in hospital, but has heard nothing from them regarding the cause of the crash.

Phipps is adamant that age was not a contributing factor to the crash.

"I've got a private pilot licence and I have to pass a complete medical exam every year. I passed my last one in March. On top of that, if I want to perform in air shows, I have to pass an air show competency exam, which I did last April," he said.

Because of the fracture of his vertebrae, his mobility is limited. He also has to undergo future surgeries on his elbow and perhaps his back.

"Right now, my elbow looks like a TV antenna because of all the metal surrounding it and holding it together," Phipps said.

He tires easily and can't climb the stairs in his own home but says he's lucky to be alive.

Phipps has resigned himself to remain earthbound once he has recovered, at least as far as air shows are concerned.

"I don't think this accident should in any way stop the Nanaimo Flying Club from holding future shows, but I have to admit, it's not the way I wanted to finish my career as an airshow pilot," he said.

The flying club has said it plans future air shows in Nanaimo, the next scheduled for 2013.

'Here We Go Again. Student Pilot Crashes Into a Home at 21st and Navy Streets.' The inside scoop on Santa Monica Airport. Crash of Cessna 172M Skyhawk, N5155Q. Near KSMO Santa Monica Municipal Airport, California.

By Martin Rubin

My day started out fairly typical.

I was tending to complaints regarding a very noisy 6:30 AM jet landing (there is NO enforceable curfew on SMO landings). The complaints came from three Santa Monica residents, only one of whom is a member of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP). I emailed the other two to sign up to be on the CRAAP contact list.

At the same time, I was putting the finishing touches on a letter of support for Senator Ted Lieu’s request for a formal investigation of the Santa Monica Airport’s toxic impacts on the adjacent neighborhoods. The letter will be sent to Debbie Raphael, Director California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substance Control.

The pace of my day took a fairly rapid change at 3:05 PM when I received the following email-message from former Santa Monica Airport Commissioner Susan Hartley, “PLANE CRASH AT 21 AND NAVY!!!!” Well, that explained the drone of helicopter noise off in the distance that my wife Joan and I were hearing.

Motorcade carries chopper accident victims. Eurocopter AS 350B2 Ecureuil, N352LN. Mosby, Missouri.

Kansas City (KSHB/CNN) - Three flight medics and a patient who died in a helicopter crash Friday in Missouri are being remembered.

Under a falling sun, I-29 lit up Saturday night with the lights of first responder vehicles. The motorcade carried the bodies of the medics from Kansas City to St. Joseph.

Cars stopped, people got out, and for a moment, time seemed to stand still.

"Our condolences to the family," said Craig Yale.

Yale is the vice president of Air-Methods, the group that runs the medic service. He said some of the crew members had been working in northern Missouri more than ten years, other just started last year.

"These were very dedicated passionate people who were passionate about doing what they were doing," said Yale.

Randy Bever helped start the flight net operation in 1998. Paramedic Chris Frakes had been flying with the company for five years, and pilot James Freudenberg just started with the company, but he was a military pilot until 2010. His last mission was in Afghanistan.

The crew was taking 58-year-old Terry Tacoronte from her family's home in Bethany to Liberty Hospital.

Neighbors said she and her husband were visiting from Colorado.

It's not apparent why the helicopter went down, but Yale said they stopped in Mosby to get more fuel.

Some local pilots suggest the aircraft ran out of gas.

"Obviously that was not a planned stop. I would say that was an emergency stop," said pilot Robert Haas.

The company's vice president said it's too soon to tell why the chopper went down.

"I don't know we won't know for awhile, but I would suggest that it is probably important not to jump to conclusion, because frequently in these accident investigations other things come to light," said Yale.

The company is organizing a remembrance ceremony for all of the victims.

Watch Video:  http://www.ksdk.com

Flight forced to land at Gatwick after "fume" complaints

A flight was forced to land at Gatwick after reports of “fumes” coming from the plane.

The Ryanair flight from Barcelona to Stansted originally landed in France after passengers complained of an “unusual odour”, described as like burning plastic.

After it took off, other passengers began to complain, and the flight landed at Gatwick shortly after 5pm today.

A spokeswoman for Gatwick confirmed the plane had landed “safely” and all the passengers had disembarked.

A Ryanair spokeswoman said the company’s engineers will “inspect the aircraft”, adding that the plane had been temporarily removed from service. 

Source:  http://www.theargus.co.uk

Nigerian airlines face troubled times

In recent time, the nation’s aviation industry, which consists mainly of the airlines, has been in dire financial straits as the airlines are groping in the dark.

Any moment from now, more airlines may go down due to high operational costs threatening their operations, an analyst said during the week.

At the moment, the airlines are surviving on extra charges levied on passengers’ tickets as a result the skyrocketing price of aviation fuel, popularly known as Jet-A1, and other charges and problems arising from sundry issues in the industry.

Between September 2010 and June 2011, aviation fuel marketers increased the price of the commodity by over 100 percent, as a litre jumped from N80 per litre to over N180.

“Unfortunately, some marketers even deny us fuel. They can’t even supply us what we want and we have to adjust our flights. For instance, we need 500,000 litres a-day but the marketers can’t supply that because it is scarce, we need about 3.5 million litres in a week.

“Therefore, we can’t operate normally, we lose money. Although, we have a fuel dump but that is just for a few litres, it does not serve the purpose of all our flights,” Joseph Arumemi-Johnson Ikhide, Arik Air chairman, said when General Electric officials visited his company recently.

Already, the airlines have adjusted their fares to suit the increase, as one hour flight now attracts between N25, 000 to N30, 000, depending on the route, seat availability and other factors, this is a departure from the N19, 000 it used to be in November 2010.

“In fact, airlines don’t increase fares incessantly like the marketers do because they are dealing with passengers directly, they need to consider the pockets of the travellers otherwise, there will be no airline industry again,” said Muhammed Tukur, assistant secretary general, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), at a briefing when the marketers increased for the third time in four months last year.

To compound the problems of the airlines and passengers alike, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) suddenly increased Passenger Service Charge (PSC) from N350.00 to N1, 000 per ticket, at all the 21 airports, a situation stakeholders described as arbitrary because there was no notice of increase and the charges were even higher at older airports than the newly and privately built Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2).

It cause a lot of confusion and embarrassment at the airports as many airlines refused to build the N1,000 charges into their tickets.

FAAN staff had to stop passengers at the boarding area to demand for N1, 000 PSC until the tickets were specially printed aside the normal passenger tickets. This act had led to brouhaha at the MMA2, after the operator, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services increased theirs from N1, 000 to N2, 500, claiming heavy cost of operations at the private terminal.

Of course, the airlines have to add this to their ticket charges as the fares kept increasing.

“We consulted all the airlines informed them of our new chares in order for them to adjust their systems, only Aero refused to add it to its tickets cost, their passengers were always accosted with the demand for N2, 000 at the ate. The passengers were not happy but there is nothing we could do because their airport is privately maintained”, an official of Bi-Courtney said.

Unfortunately, Stella Oduah, Aviation Minister halted it after two weeks of complaints and controversies.

Currently airlines have to carry out maintenance on their aircraft abroad in foreign currencies due to lack of functional maintenance hangar in Nigeria. For a long time, government had planned to build a national hangar to no avail as individuals like Aero and Bristow have thrive to have theirs but with limited maintenance status.

A to D checks (maintenance) are carried out on both Helicopters and aircraft. While on A and B checks can only be done in Nigeria, others (C and D) which are very expensive are done outside the country.

The C and D stages are the overhaul stages where the every part of the aircraft is removed for comprehensive checks one after the other, it is like getting a brand new aircraft all over again.

Experts are piqued that Nigeria, which boasts of the largest and most modern commercial aircraft fleet in West and Central Africa, has no Maintenance Repair and Overhaul ( MRO) facility. Usually, even the least of repairs are done abroad or by bringing in foreign experts. Harold Demuren, Director General of the NCAA thumbed down this situation and advocated that airlines facilitate joint minor repairs locally, rather than losing hard-earned dollars cheaply.

“Maintenance is a major aspect of flight operations that gulp a lot of money. You know that the high grades maintenance are not done in Nigeria, they are mandatory checks that have to be done in foreign currencies abroad and that is really impacting on the airlines”, an analyst says.

Arik Air, which has been toying with the idea of establishing one for some years, remains at the planning stage. Demuren pointed out recentlt at an Arik Air workshop that high cost of aircraft maintenance must be looked into for airlines to survive.

“For now, government needs to provide Arik Air with land to enable it build a hangar where aircraft maintenance could be done locally to reduce capital flight out of the country,” he said.

An aviation expert suggested that domestic airlines partner with foreign investors and MRO industry partners to build a world-class hangar that will be patronised by both domestic and foreign operators.

Apart from these albatross, they pay sundry charges like landing and parking charges to FAAN; pay ticket sales charges to NCAA and en-route and navigational charges to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Source:  http://www.businessdayonline.com

No takers for Air India top job?

New Delhi: The Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Prime Minister’s Office have started looking for a replacement for Arvind Jadhav, the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Air India, sources have said. Sources say 5 officers including Petro-chemicals secretary K. Jose Cyriac, Cochin Airport CEO Kurien and a high ranking official in the Aviation Ministry were short listed. However, all of them have declined to accept the offer.

Air India’s 40,000 employees have not received their salary for June and July and performance linked incentives (PLI) from April to July. Currently, the airline is laden with a cumulative debt of Rs. 40,000 crore it incurred over aircraft acquisition and as short-term loans to maintain its operations and posted losses around Rs. 7,000 crore for the last fiscal.

Source:  http://www.indiatribune.com

Great Barrier Airlines Piper Chieftain: Emergency landing as engine fails. Whangarei Airport, New Zealand

Passengers disembark from the Great Barrier Airlines plane after it landed in Whangarei using only one of its two engines. 

Three fire trucks, an ambulance and several police officers raced to Whangarei Airport when an aircraft carrying a pilot and eight passengers touched down with one of its twin engines out of action yesterday.

The Great Barrier Airlines 10-seater Piper Chieftain left Whangarei about 8am on a charter flight to Kaitaia with Northland District Health Board staff heading for a day's work in outpatient clinics at Kaitaia Hospital.

Whangarei Airport manager Mike Chubb said the pilot had missed his approach to land at Kaitaia and when he applied full power to bring the aircraft around for another approach he noticed the right engine was "playing up" so he shut it down.

Poor weather conditions ruled out a one-engine landing at Kaitaia and because the weather at Kerikeri was also poor the pilot decided to return to Whangarei, where the plane landed about 9.45am without problems despite one of its twin engines not functioning.

Mr Chubb said the aircraft was quite safe flying on one engine and with the propeller on the other engine feathered.

But he did not expect the Piper to fly out of Whangarei before its right engine had been checked, either by engineers based at the airport or by a maintenance crew sent north from the Great Barrier Airlines base at Dairy Flat near Auckland.

Great Barrier Airlines administration manager Anna Davidson later told the Northern Advocate the Piper had no engine problems and had been diverted because of the weather. Asked why it had been using only one engine, she said: "I wouldn't have the faintest idea." A request to speak to the airline's chief executive officer, Gerard Rea, was refused.

Northland District health Board acting chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain yesterday apologised to Kaitaia Hospital patients who were going to be seen by the Whangarei staff.

"But I am sure upon learning about the emergency landing they will understand our reasoning."

Source:  http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz

China Low-Fuel Landing Row Reflects Growing Pains

Aviation authorities have ordered stiff punishment for a local airline whose pilot refused to yield to a Qatar Airways jet requesting to land because it was short of fuel, highlighting growing concerns over safety in China's overcrowded skies.

The case was the latest to raise concern about China's increasingly busy airports, as traffic controllers struggle to keep up and airlines scramble for pilots, many of whom lack experience, analysts said Tuesday.

The China Civil Aviation Administration, or CAAC, deemed the Aug. 13 incident, a "serious violation of regulations."

In a notice Tuesday, it said it had revoked the license of the pilot of a Juneyao Airlines flight on Aug. 13, who refused six requests from Shanghai air traffic control to give way after the Qatar Airlines jet from Doha issued a "mayday" call seeking priority in landing because it was running short of fuel.

Reports at the time said the aircraft came dangerously close to collision before both landed safely.

The Qatar jet, among 20 circling over Shanghai's Pudong International Airport due to bad weather, made an urgent request to land at the city's other main airport, Hongqiao International.

But the Juneyao Airlines pilot argued that his aircraft was also low on fuel.

The CAAC said results of its investigation found that the Juneyao jet had enough fuel to stay airborne for 42 more minutes, while the Qatar jet had only enough fuel for 18 more minutes of flight, it said.

Chinese state media reports said both pilots had exaggerated the urgency of their situations, but the question of whether the Qatar aircraft had violated any regulations would be directed to Qatar's air authority, it said.

The problem partly stems from airlines' efforts to minimize the fuel they carry, said Wang Xiaoyan, a transportation analyst at China Minzu Securities, based in Beijing.

"I would say the punishment from CAAC is quite fair, Juneyao should be responsible as it almost caused an accident," Wang said.

But congestion in China's skies also is adding to air traffic control problems, forcing detours, delays and raising the risks of collision, the International Air Traffic Association has warned.

According to statistics reported by the financial magazine Caixin, the number of civil aircraft is forecast to reach 2,600 by 2015, up from about 1,500 last year, and to jump to 4,360 by 2020.

Airports have proliferated as have smaller regional airlines as passenger numbers have soared. A year ago, 42 people died in the crash of a Henan Airlines flight making a night landing in a remote town in northeastern China.

Adding to the confusion is China's own difficulties with pilots and pilot training. Experts say the country will need tens of thousands of new pilots in coming years to man its growing fleets of aircraft and also to replace the current generation of pilots as they retire.

Underscoring the frustrations of flight crews stretched to the limit by manpower shortages, in 2008, China Eastern Airline saw disruptions to more than 20 flights in southwestern China's Yunnan province by pilots who either turned back midway through their flights or landed them and then took off again without letting passengers disembark.

The CAAC permanently barred Juneyao's pilot, a Korean citizen, from flying within China and said it would notify the South Korean government of the case. The copilot's flight permit was suspended for six months, it said.

CAAC ordered Juneyao to reduce its flight capacity by 10 percent and said the carrier would be temporarily barred from carrying out plans for expansion or hiring any foreign flight staff.

All foreign flight crews of the airline also will be required to participate in at least 40 hours of training on Chinese aviation regulations, it said.

Shanghai-based Juneyao, one of several private carriers in an aviation market dominated by state-run airlines, said it would fire the pilot responsible for the dispute and ground the co-pilot for six months.

It said that regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident, it recognized it was at fault and apologized.

Originally founded in 1991 as a charter service, Juneyao began operating commercial flights out of Shanghai in 2006.

Taking apart jets more than meets the eye.

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Some are concerned it's nothing more than a future junkyard for retired jets, but an operation in Tupelo is actually recycling and shipping out everything aboard.

If you've driven by the Tupelo Regional Airport lately it's hard to miss those three large jets near the runway.

Just five months ago the first jet landed at the airport, but soon it will be gone.

Going from a large mass into thousands of pieces. Pieces like the engine, tires, black box among everything else holding the plane together.

"We recycle the part, the airframe, the engine. everything on the jet is actually recyclable," said Dana Soper, General Manager for Universal Asset Management.

When these jets land they weigh nearly 400,000 pounds. However, by the time they've been disassembled its shed nearly 300,000 pounds in parts.

"Most of the time when the aircrafts land, the first thing we take off the aircraft are the engines," Soper added.

"They are a high demand low density asset. Airlines and suppliers all over the world are always looking for serviceable engines."

UAM is the company taking apart the jets, and Soper is hearing local fuss about the area becoming a place where jets go to die, but he wants everyone to know what kind of operation this really is.

"I get a few questions, or concerns about this turning into a junkyard. That's not the operation that we're going to run here," he said.

"You're disassembling an aircraft so parts are going to come off, but there's a professional way to do that is aesthetically pleasing to the community."

From there Soper says parts are cleaned, inspected, coded and then ready to be shipped out for service on an operating flight. This saves on costs for airlines which could save you on airfare prices.

"Like today we're pulling wheels and tires for a special order. They come off the aircraft, my aircraft and power plant mechanics will make sure that those parts are good.

Then, they go through a DAR who certifies that they are airworthy. They go into our system and we ship them out all over the United States and the world."

As of now only three jets sit near the hangar, but anyway 10 more are set to join their ranks of being recycled and put toward future use.

Currently the company is working on about a seven person staff at the hangar, but it expects to hire about 20 to 30 more people for disassembling and in their warehouse, in the upcoming months.

Source:  http://www.wtva.com

Vernal Regional Airport (KVEL), Vernal, Utah

It is touted as the least used emergency vehicle in the county. But for good reason. When you are talking about this area’s fire trucks — the less they are used the better.

Uintah County Fire Suppression Special Service District Director Jeremy Raymond announced last week that a new fire truck was purchased for the Vernal Regional Airport to replace an older model that was purchased in 1980.

As long as anyone can remember, the old engine was only used on two occasions at the airport and neither one of them for fighting anything with flames.

Raymond explained that one call for the fire truck was for an aircraft that landed just short of the runway. The second was for a gas spill, but once again there were no flames and the truck was used to foam the fuel leakage.

For that reason the Uintah County fire district officials were able to get a trade in of $50,000 for the old, outdated fire truck that ended its career in Vernal with fewer than 5,000 miles.

Federal aviation guidelines demanded that a newer, more up-to-date fire truck be purchased for the airport and fire officials decided on a 2008 U1 Titan fire truck that cost $300,000.

The new engine is equipped with a 1500 gallon water tank plus room for 500 pounds of dried chemicals. There are two front mounted turrets that will dispense the water from one mounted on top of the cab as well as another at bumper level. Both are controlled from hand controls inside the cab.

On the plus side, the new engine doubles the water and chemical capacity over the old engine. On the down side, with all dispensers wide open the new engine will pump about 750 gallons of water a minute, in other words there will be less than two minutes of first response fire suppression capabilities in the new truck if it is run wide open.

“All this truck does is act as a first responder to the accident while other fire trucks are dispatched from Vernal,” Raymond said. “And it will do this very well.”

Because the truck was purchased by the county without federal dollars, the county will be able to use the truck away from the airport when needed in an emergency. Raymond stated that the truck has to be at the airport when large aircraft are coming and going which happens now twice a day.

“This is a big addition to the airport,” Raymond said. “It will respond to any size aircraft accident well into the future.”

Presently there are five certified firemen for the new truck. They include Kelly Harvey, Jared Spencer, Shawn Cole, Chad McMullin and Jeff Merrell.

Plane Spotting Allowed at Logan

There are thousands of plane spotters in the United States and overseas that like to film aircraft at airports across the country, Logan being one of them.

Each year, Logan gets its share of plane spotters and the airport has always attempted to accommodate them, unless a security issue presents itself.

Due to security issues, Logan requires spotters to call the airport in advance of filming.

The Authority requires the following information, name, date of birth, driver’s license number, and date and time(s) Spotters should carry a photo ID and Massport’s email approving access to the central and or the Terminal B garage for filming.

Massport asks spotters no to climb on any walls or structures for safety reasons.

In addition, spotters are asked to report any suspicious activities they may notice to the State Police immediately. The same is asked in case of injuries.

Once filming is approved, an email will be sent to the State Police, TSA, Massport staff, including the parking garage, so everyone is aware of the filming.

Sometimes, not everyone gets the message and will approach a plane spotter and ask questions. That’s when they should present Massport’s memo of approval and a photo ID.

Massport has a proven record and a positive system in place to take care of plane spotters. As a matter of fact, ten of them were at Logan about three weeks ago, all at the same time and there were no problems.

It’s important to note, if Homeland Security raises the level of security from its current status, plane spotting at Logan will be temporarily shut down.

Expressjet Embraer ERJ-145: Passengers discuss plane landing. Aircraft on landing, went off the side of the runway, no injuries reported. Quad City International Airport (KMLI) Moline, Illinois.

Pictures taken by Tammy Hermanson captured the terrifying moments after United Flight 5821 skidded off the runway.

MOLINE, IL (WQAD/CNN) – Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a United Express Plane skidded off a runway.

The flight from Denver, CO, had just landed at Illinois Quad City International Airport when it veered off its path.

"Wasn't quite the landing people anticipated," said passenger Tammy Hermanson.

Pictures taken by Hermanson captured the terrifying moments after United Flight 5821 skidded off the runway.

"They took us off using a fireman's carry and we just waited out in the field," Hermanson said. "Then they did a head count to make sure everyone was accounted for and we waited in the field."

Hermanson was among the nearly 50 passengers aboard the non-stop flight from Denver Monday.

"It was probably the smoothest ever experienced, and then all of a sudden we took a sharp left, it felt like it was about to tip over," said passenger Kristen Koch.

After traveling 3,000 feet off the runway, the plane finally came to a rest in a nearby field.

"I was sitting on the window side over the wing, you could see grass flying up and the crew keeping it straight," said Mike Laplante.

Gathering what luggage they could after their alarming landing, passengers gave credit to their pilot for keeping everyone calm.

"The pilot called over loud speaker a few seconds after it stopped that he lost control of steering mechanism," said Aubrey Remmers. "Everyone was so calm, nobody screamed, nobody yelled. It was amazing."

The plane is now grounded as NTSB and FAA investigate the accident. Passengers are thankful no one was hurt.

Watch Video:  http://www.kctv5.com

VIDEO: Red Arrows tribute at Wings & Wheels

A MINUTE'S silence was held at Wings & Wheels over the bank holiday weekend, in memory of Red Arrows pilot Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, who died when his Hawk T1 aircraft crashed at a display in Dorset on August 20.

A moving poem, 'High Flight' - penned by a pilot who was killed in a mid-air collision in the Second Word War - was also read and visitors on both days of the aviation and motoring show at Dunsfold Park paid their personal respects by signing books of condolence that will be passed on to Flt Lt Egging's widow.

The Red Arrows had been due to open the first day of the event on Sunday and a large group of friends of former Cranleigh School pupil and Red Arrow pilot, Zane Sennett, were at the show.

"The tragic thing is that Zane used to instruct the pilot who died," said his former history teacher, Mike Payne.

"It was his first year flying with the Red Arrows and a third year pilot is always selected as a mentor. Zane was chosen to be his [Flt Lt Egging's] mentor and so had had a particularly close bond with him."

The Red Arrows were sadly missed at Wings & Wheels but a thrilling solo display in a Hawk T1 was provided by the RAF Hawk Display Team's first female pilot, Flt Lt Juliette 'Jules' Fleming.

Fittingly, Bank Holiday Monday was 'Women in the Air' day, held to mark the 100th anniversary of the first British woman to get a pilot's licence - it was Hilda Hewlitt, who made history just down the road at Brooklands on August 29 in 1911.

The aircraft has a special link with Dunsfold as the first Hawk flew in 1974 and its maiden flight took place at the airfield.

Wings & Wheels is now established as one of the best airshows in the UK and vistors were treated to a host of RAF legends in an action-packed, five-hour flying display on both days.

This year has marked the 60th anniversary of the Hawker Hunter fighter jet, which is still in active service, and it made history at Dunsfold in 1953 when Neville Duke achieved 727.6mph in the modified first prototype and broke the world air speed record.

Dunsfold showgoers enjoyed another 'first' with a unique display by a Royal Navy Hawker Sea Fury and the psychedelic 'Miss Demeanour' Hunter, plus some epic close-formation aerobatics by the only Hawker Hunter display group - Team Viper.

The most famous RAF aircraft of all, the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster, provided a fabulous flypast for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and a Second World War P-51 Mustang also performed an aerial duet with a Spitfire IX.

Sadly, the Avro Vulcan Bomber was a last-minute no-show. The only delta-wing giant still flying, which was relaunched in 2007 following the most complex restoration ever undertaken, developed a hydraulics fault en route to Dunsfold on Sunday and also missed Monday's show.

Striking a blow for the Army, The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment Parachute Team - better known as The Tigers - made a dramatic grand entrance, dropping in at 70mph from a Royal Navy Sea Lynx, shortly after the helicopter had given an incredible display of its versatility by looping the loop and executing a 180-degree wingover.

Visitors were treated to a swift succession of mind-boggling aerial displays that all seemed to defy the laws of gravity, in which show commentator Brendan O'Brien led the way by taking time off to land his Piper J-3 Cub repeatedly on the back of a moving truck.

Women in the Air day was also memorably celebrated by the world's only formation wingwalking team - the Breitling Wingwalkers - whose two fearless 'babes in lycra' performed high kicks at speeds of up to 150mph and 'G' forces of up to 4G.

On Sunday they also had to combat a sudden shower which, the crowd was informed, would have felt like being "slashed with razors".

Help for Heroes, Brooklands Museum, Cranleigh Village Hospital Trsut and Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance will all benefit from the success of this year's show.

Dunsfold Park chief executive Jim McAllister said: "Over the last seven years, Wings & Wheels has helped Dunsfold Aerodrome raise more than £250,000 for charitable causes.

"Each year a small team of staff and a dedicated group of volunteers work tirelessly to ensure the airshow happens and is a huge success.

"I would like to thank all these individuals and all those who have supported the show through sponsorship, donations and by purchasing tickets."

Source:  http://www.getsurrey.co.uk

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Mooney M20C Ranger, N5501Q; accident occurred August 30, 2011 in Allen, Oklahoma

Location: Allen, OK
Accident Number: CEN11CA609
Date & Time: 08/30/2011, 0900 CDT
Registration: N5501Q
Aircraft: MOONEY M20C
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, while on a cross-country flight, the fuel in the left tank was exhausted and the engine stopped producing power. The pilot attempted to restore fuel to the engine by switching to the right tank, which contained fuel; however, realizing that he was too low to attempt an engine restart, he elected to perform a gear-up landing to a field. The airplane’s fuselage and right wing sustained substantial damage during the landing. No other preimpact anomalies with the airplane were reported.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A total loss of engine power in flight due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s inadequate fuel management.


Fuel - Fluid management (Cause)

Personnel issues
Task scheduling - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Loss of engine power (total) (Defining event)

Emergency descent
Loss of engine power (total)

Off-field or emergency landing

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 66, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Seatbelt
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Unknown
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 02/13/2011
Flight Time:  400 hours (Total, all aircraft), 40 hours (Total, this make and model), 400 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: MOONEY
Registration: N5501Q
Model/Series: M20C
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 2939
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/29/2011, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4447 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-360 A1D
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: ADH, 1016 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time: 0855 CDT
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 12000 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 16 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 140°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.89 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 17°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Kimberly City, MO (MO64)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Sulphur, MO (F30)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0700 CDT
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 34.720556, -96.421389 (est)

Former U.S. Airways pilot hits back at automation report

A retired U.S. Airways pilot is questioning an Associated Press story that suggests pilots are losing their hands-on instincts because of more reliance on computers.

The pilot in the Associated Press story, Rory Kay, called pilot's dependency on electronics "automation addiction" and said the reliance could cause a new breed of airline accidents. But former U.S. Airways pilot Ron Nielsen said the automation is here to stay, though he would like to see more training for computer-reliant pilots.

"Automation, we never want to get rid of it, because it was designed to reduce workload. The trouble is, what we've got to do now is make sure we don't get so relaxed that we don't stay engaged," Nielsen said.

It would take the "perfect storm" of events to cause an airliner to have an accident, Nielsen said, citing the heavy regulations, extensive training and attention to safety.

Pilots use automated systems for every aspect of the flight other than take-off and landing.

Deadly airline crashes have decreased drastically in the U.S. for the past decade.

Source:  http://ktar.com

Almost 1,000 RAF personnel will be sacked on Thursday, even as the Air Force continues to fly missions over Libya.

Ministers have heaped praise on the RAF for the Libyan campaign but are pressing ahead with this week’s redundancy programme. Nearly 1,000 soldiers will also be told tomorrow that they are being sacked.

Last night the Ministry of Defence was unable to rule out redundancies among RAF ground crew and technicians supporting the daily flights over Libya, although pilots were safe from redundancy.

Tomorrow’s announcement marks the beginning of a wave of redundancies in the Armed Forces following last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.

In all, around 22,000 military posts will be eliminated by 2015, more than half of them through redundancies. The RAF has been flying daily sorties over Libya since March and continues to mount attacks on military forces loyal to Col Gaddafi. Yesterday, the MoD said that RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft had destroyed an ammunition lorry and three command posts.

Tomorrow, a total of 964 RAF and 938 Army personnel will be informed that they are being made redundant.

As The Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this year, they include 170 trainee pilots. Also being dismissed are around 200 weapons technicians and operators, 529 ground tradesmen and 121 senior officers.

The RAF has been seeking applications for voluntary departures, but it is thought that up to half of the redundancies will still be compulsory. Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has repeatedly praised the aerial campaign, which has seen British warplanes flying to Libya from Gioia del Colle in southern Italy and RAF Marham in Norfolk.

Last month he flew to Gioia del Colle and praised the “immense contribution” of the RAF personnel working there.

The Air Force’s work was “key to the successes we have seen so far in this campaign and is helping protect innocent Libyans from persecution,” he said.

Ministers have said that any Armed Forces personnel engaged in or preparing for front-line operations would be exempt from redundancy under the defence cuts. But officials confirmed yesterday that the assurance only covered RAF personnel flying over Libya.

Ground crews working on the operation in Italy or at British bases were eligible for sacking, the MoD said.

An MoD source said that any personnel “putting their lives at risk” on the Libyan operation would be safe from redundancy, but confirmed that ground crew at airbases did not qualify for such protection.

The source said: “Those who are operating in the danger zone and placing themselves at risk operating over or in Libya have been protected from the axe, though some who are on Libyan operations may volunteer to go.”

Around 1,600 Royal Navy staff will also be laid off on Sept 30 as part of the first tranche of military redundancies. A much larger round of sackings is being prepared for early 2013, with redundancies expected across all three Services.

Petroleum Helicopters Inc (PHI): Accidents occurred May 02, 2017, June 08, 2015, January 04, 2009

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana

PHI Inc:   http://registry.faa.gov/N457PH

NTSB Identification: CEN17LA174 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Tuesday, May 02, 2017 in Boothville, LA
Aircraft: BELL 407, registration: N457PH
Injuries: 6 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 2, 2017, about 0635 central daylight time, a Bell 407 helicopter, N457PH, registered to and operated by PHI Helicopters, Inc., Lafayette, Louisiana, made a precautionary landing at Grand Bay receiving station in the Gulf of Mexico, near Boothville, Louisiana, after the pilot noticed a vibration in-flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.The non-scheduled domestic passenger flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 135, and a company VFR flight plan had been filed and activated. The pilot and four passengers on board the helicopter were not injured.The cross-country flight originated from Boothville (LS08), Louisiana, at 0629, and was en route to Main Pass 311A in the Gulf of Mexico when the accident occurred. 

The pilot had noticed a vibration in-flight and landed the helicopter on the oil platform. As he was shutting down the engine, the vibration worsened and he completed the shutdown using the rotor brake. Post-accident inspection revealed a tip cap had separated from one of the tail rotor blades, and cracks were noted on the tail rotor gear box, mounting hardware, and tail boom, all considered to be substantial damage.

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baton Rouge, Louisiana 
PHI Inc.; Lafayette, Louisiana 
Bell Helicopter; Hurst, Texas 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Docket And Docket Items - National Transportation Safety Board:   https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

PHI Inc:  http://registry.faa.gov/N501PH

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA265
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Monday, June 08, 2015 in Pecan Island, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/23/2017
Aircraft: BELL 407, registration: N501PH
Injuries: 5 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The operator reported that the helicopter air taxi flight was in cruise about 1,000 ft above ground level when the pilot felt an impact and a strong vibration. The pilot completed an instrument and functional control check and could not immediately identify any anomalies. The pilot stated that, as he slowed the helicopter for landing, he noticed a “heavy mechanical sound and strong vibration.” The vibration worsened, and the pilot began to have difficulty controlling the helicopter; he subsequently initiated an autorotation and deployed the helicopter’s floats. The helicopter touched down in a marshy area, and the pilot and passengers egressed. 

During the landing, the main rotor blades contacted the tail boom and one of the tail rotor blades, resulting in separation of the tail rotor gearbox (TRGB) support structure, which was subsequently located in the marsh. A postaccident examination and metallurgical analysis revealed that fatigue fractures on two of the four TRGB attachment studs likely existed before the accident flight. As the fatigue fractures grew larger through the first two attachment studs, their load-carrying capability lessened, and the additional load was transferred to the remaining attachment studs. The progressive failure of the fatigued TRGB attachment studs led to the vibrations felt by the pilot and, ultimately, the uncommanded right yaw and subsequent loss of tail rotor control. The reverse- bending, high-cycle fatigue fracture initiation mode observed on two of the TRGB studs suggests the fatigue fractures were a result of a loss of torque of the attachment stud nuts. The reason for the loss of torque could not be determined based on the available information. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The fatigue fracture of the tail rotor gearbox attachment studs, which resulted in a loss of tail rotor control and a subsequent hard landing. 

On June 8, 2015, at 1432 central daylight time, a Bell 407 helicopter, N501PH, made an autorotation to the ground near Pecan Island, Louisiana. The airline transport rated pilot and four passengers were not injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to and operated by PHI Inc., Lafayette, Louisiana, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as an air taxi flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and a company flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Vermilion Block 256-E in the Gulf of Mexico about 1400 and was en route to Pecan Island.

The pilot and operator stated that the helicopter was in cruise flight about 1,000 ft above ground level when the pilot felt an impact and a strong vibration of the helicopter. The pilot completed an instrument and functional control check and could not immediately identify any anomalies. Soon after, the pilot initiated an airspeed and power reduction and noticed a heavy mechanical sound and strong vibration. The vibration worsened and the helicopter began a slow right turn so the pilot entered an autorotation. The pilot noticed that as the engine power was reduced further, the helicopter began to oscillate and he experienced difficulty maintaining directional control. With the floats inflated, the pilot made a hard forced landing into a marsh with tall grass. During the landing, the tail rotor gear box (TRGB) separated from the helicopter and was later located in the marsh. 

The helicopter was equipped with Outerlink, which recorded several of the helicopter's parameters, including GPS location, at 30 second intervals. The data was used to correlate the pilot's recollection of the anomalous vibrations, helicopter location, and timeline.

On June 24, 2015, representatives from the FAA, Bell Helicopter, PHI, and the NTSB convened at Bell Helicopter facilities in Hurst, Texas, to examine the recovered tail rotor head, tail rotor blades (TRB), TRGB, TRGB support structure, and remnants of the flexible coupling that was still attached to the TRGB input flange. The exterior of the gearbox exhibited light damage and dirt consistent with immersion in the marsh. The bottom surface of the four mounting feet exhibited evidence of corrosion from exposure to the brackish water. All four TRGB attachment studs were fractured. The four attachment stud locations were labeled "A", "B", "C", and "D" for the purpose of the examination. All gearbox-side attachment studs remained within the gearbox housing; the mating half from attachment stud A was recovered from the accident site. Three of the four TRGB attachment studs exhibited signatures of fatigue fracture. Attachment stud A exhibited reverse bending fatigue through the majority of its cross-section. Attachment stud B exhibited reverse bending fatigue through about 2/3 of its cross-section, and exhibited signatures of low cycle fatigue and overload through the remaining 1/3 of its cross-section. Attachment stud C exhibited signatures of low cycle fatigue and overload. Attachment stud D exhibited signatures of overload. The reverse bending fatigue found on attachment studs A and B were primarily in the lateral axis. Multiple tool ratchet marks were observed at the reverse bending fatigue origins. 

The recovered TRGB support structure exhibited multiple fractures consistent with overload. Impact damage consistent with main rotor blade contact was observed on the forward end of the structure. Mechanical damage and rotational scoring was observed near the forward end near the area where the TRGB input flange and flexible coupling are normally located; the damage exhibited a shiny, silver-colored appearance. The four TRGB mount spot faces exhibited evidence of fretting damage adjacent to the TRGB mount bores. Fractures were observed through the thickness of the mounting bores for attachment studs A and B; the fractures exhibited signatures consistent with overload. Additionally, the bores for attachment studs A and B exhibited thread impressions along the length of the bore and the entirety of the bore circumference. Lastly, the bores for attachment studs A and B, normally circular in shape, exhibited elongation in the same direction as the reverse bending fatigue observed on the studs. The bores for attachment studs C and D exhibited thread impressions along the length of the bore along the fore-aft axis. Evidence of sealant was observed on the TRGB mount spot faces. 

Remnant pieces of flexible coupling remained attached to the TRGB input flange (driveshaft adapter) at its two bolted locations. The fracture surfaces of the remnant flexible coupling exhibited signatures consistent with low cycle reverse bending fatigue. When disassembled, evidence of corrosion and corrosion byproducts were observed in the interior surfaces of the TRGB housing and the input quill duplex bearing assembly. The TRGB input flange could not be rotated manually. 

The two TRBs remained attached to the tail rotor hub; one was relatively intact with minor exterior damage and the other exhibited leading edge damage and the outboard section was separated near midspan. The damaged TRB exhibited signs of high-energy contact with a main rotor blade. 

On August 16, 2016, the TRGB mounting studs were re-examined for evidence of striations. The fracture surfaces of attachment studs A and B were examined under a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and revealed a significant amount of mechanical contact and corrosion damage. The damage precluded a striation count to estimate a crack growth rate for attachment stud A. On attachment stub B, a localized area of intact striations was observed between the mechanical contact damage, which revealed a localized fatigue striation spacing of about 0.000016 inches. 

On September 21, 2016, the damaged TRB was re-examined for evidence of proper bonding. Examination of the tip block bond line on the outboard portion revealed pieces of chopped fiberglass, which is a material used to manufacture the tip block. The tip block adhesive exhibited signatures consistent with a cohesive failure. The tip block adhesive showed evidence of adequate tip block adhesion to the blade skin. 

The operator's maintenance personnel performed a postaccident damage assessment and found a small hole in the aft bulkhead fairing. The hole was continuous to the aft baggage compartment where a brass threaded stud was found inside. The stud was identified as a tail rotor tip block weight.

About three weeks prior to the accident, on May 13 and 15, 2015, the tail rotor blades were repaired and inspected by an outside vendor. On May 21, 2015, the accident tail rotor assembly was reinstalled and balanced by the operator, at an aircraft total time of 16,624 hours, 13 flight hours prior to the accident.

Sikorsky S-76C++, Petroleum Helicopters Inc (PHI), N748P: Fatal accident occurred January 04, 2009 near Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration District Office;  Baton Rouge, Louisiana 
Federal Aviation Administration; Washington, District of Columbia
Federal Aviation Administration;  Burlington, Maine
Federal Aviation Administration;  Fort Worth, Texas
National Transportation Safety Board; Washington, District of Columbia
Sikorsky; Stratford, Connecticut
Turbomeca USA; Grand Prairie, Texas
Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.; Lafayette, Louisiana 

Aviation Accident Data Summary -  National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: CEN09MA117
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Sunday, January 04, 2009 in Morgan City, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/24/2010
Aircraft: SIKORSKY S-76C, registration: N748P
Injuries: 8 Fatal, 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators traveled in suppor
t of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

A Sikorsky S-76C++ departed on an air taxi flight from PHI, Inc.’s heliport en route to an offshore oil platform with two pilots and seven passengers. Data from the helicopter’s flight data recorder indicated that the helicopter established level cruise flight at 850 feet mean sea level and 135 knots indicated air speed. About 7 minutes after departure, the cockpit voice recorder recorded a loud bang, followed by sounds consistent with rushing wind and a power reduction on both engines and a decay of main rotor revolutions per minute. Due to the sudden power loss, the helicopter departed controlled flight and descended rapidly into marshy terrain.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that both the left and right sections of the cast acrylic windshield were shattered. Feathers and other bird remains were collected from the canopy and windshield at the initial point of impact and from other locations on the exterior of the helicopter. Laboratory analysis identified the remains as coming from a female red-tailed hawk; the females of that species have an average weight of 2.4 pounds. No defects in the materials, manufacturing, or construction were observed. There was no indication of any preexisting damage that caused the windshield to shatter. Thus, the fractures at the top of the right section of the windshield and damage to the canopy in that area were consistent with a bird impacting the canopy just above the top edge of the windshield. The fractures in the other areas of the windshields were caused by ground impact.

The S-76C++ helicopter has an overhead engine control quadrant that houses, among other components, two engine fire extinguisher T-handles and two engine power control levers (ECL). The fire extinguisher T-handles, which are located about 4 inches aft of the captain’s and first officer’s windshields, are normally in the full-forward position during flight, and each is held in place by a spring-loaded pin that rests in a detent; aft pulling force is required to move the T-handles out of their detents. If the T handles are moved aft, a mechanical cam on each T-handle pushes the trigger on the associated ECL out of its wedge-shaped stop, allowing the ECL to move aft, reducing fuel to the engine that the ECL controls. (Flight crews are trained to move an engine’s fire extinguisher T-handle full aft in the event of an in-flight fire so that the ECL can move aft and shut off the fuel flow to the affected engine.) 

The impact of the bird on the canopy just above the windshield near the engine control quadrant likely jarred the fire extinguisher T-handles out of their detents and moved them aft, pushing both ECL triggers out of their stops and allowing them to move aft and into or near the flight-idle position, reducing fuel to both engines. A similar incident occurred on November 13, 1999, in West Palm Beach, Florida, when a bird struck the windshield of an S-76C+ helicopter, N276TH, operated by Palm Beach County. The bird did not penetrate the laminated glass windshield, but the impact force of the bird cracked the windshield and dislodged the fire extinguisher T-handles out of their detents; however, in that case, the force was not great enough to move the ECLs. 

Maintenance records indicated that PHI replaced the original laminated glass windshields delivered on the accident helicopter with after-market cast acrylic windshields about 2 years before the accident. The after-market windshields provided a weight savings over the original windshields. PHI again replaced the windshields (due to cracking) with cast acrylic windshields about 1 year before the accident. Aeronautical Accessories Incorporated (AAI) designed and produced the after-market windshields and obtained supplemental type certificate (STC) approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 1997. AAI did not perform any bird-impact testing on the cast acrylic windshields supplied for the S-76C++, and the FAA’s approval of the STC did not require such testing. 

PHI also replaced the original windshields on other helicopters with the cast acrylic windshields; one of these helicopters experienced a bird-strike incident about 2 years before the accident. Postincident examination revealed a near-circular hole with radiating cracks near the top center of the right windshield. The bird penetrated the windshield and pushed the right-side T-handle. The trapped remains of the bird prevented the right-side throttle from being reengaged, but the pilot was able to land the helicopter safely. 

In 1978, when the S-76 was certificated, there were no bird-strike requirements. Currently, 14 Code of Federal Regulations 29.631 (in effect since August 8, 1996) states that, at a minimum, a transport-category helicopter, such as the S-76C++, should be capable of safe landing after impact with a 2.2-pound bird at a specified velocity. This requirement includes windshields. Current FAA requirements for transport-category helicopter windshields also state that “windshields and windows must be made of material that will not break into dangerous fragments.” 

About 4 months after this accident, Sikorsky issued a safety advisory to all operators of the S-76C++ regarding the reduced safety of acrylic windshields (both cast and stretched) compared to the helicopter’s original windshield. According to the advisory, the S-76C++’s laminated glass windshield demonstrated more tolerance to penetrating damage from in-flight impacts (such as bird strikes) compared to acrylic windshields. Sikorsky expressed concern in the safety advisory that the presence of a hole through the windshield, whether created directly by object penetration or indirectly through crack intersections, may cause additional damage to the helicopter, cause disorientation or injury to the flight crew, increase pilot workload, or create additional crew-coordination challenges. The investigation revealed that, following this accident, PHI is replacing all of the windshields in its S 76 helicopters with windshields that meet European bird-strike standards. 

Based on main rotor speed decay information provided by Sikorsky, the accident flight crew had, at most, about 6 seconds to react to the decaying rotor speed condition. Had they quickly recognized the cause of the power reduction and reacted very rapidly, they would likely have had enough time to restore power to the engines by moving the ECLs back into position. However, the flight crewmembers were likely disoriented from the bird strike and the rush of air through the fractured windshield; thus, they did not have time to identify the cause of the power reduction and take action to move the ECLs back into position. 

The accident helicopter was not equipped with an audible alarm or a master warning light to alert the flight crew of a low-rotor-speed condition. An enhanced warning could have helped the accident flight crew quickly identify the decaying rotor speed condition and provided the flight crew with more opportunity to initiate the necessary corrective emergency actions before impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
(1) the sudden loss of power to both engines that resulted from impact with a bird (red-tailed hawk), which fractured the windshield and interfered with engine fuel controls, and (2) the subsequent disorientation of the flight crewmembers, which left them unable to recover from the loss of power. Contributing to the accident were (1) the lack of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and guidance, at the time the helicopter was certificated, requiring helicopter windshields to be resistant to bird strikes; (2) the lack of protections that would prevent the T handles from inadvertently dislodging out of their detents; and (3) the lack of a master warning light and audible system to alert the flight crew of a low-rotor-speed condition.


On January 4, 2009, at 1409 Central Standard Time (CST), a Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter, N748P, registered to and operated by PHI, Inc. (PHI), as a 14 CFR Part 135 air taxi flight using day visual flight rules (VFR), crashed into marshy terrain approximately 7 minutes after takeoff and 12 miles southeast of the departure heliport. The helicopter sustained substantial damage. Both pilots and six of the seven passengers were killed, and 1 passenger was critically injured. The helicopter departed Lake Palourde Base Heliport, a PHI base (7LS3), in Amelia, Louisiana, and was en route to the South Timbalier oil platform ST301B to transport workers from two different oil exploration companies. No flight plan was filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), nor was one required. A company flight following plan was filed with the PHI Communications Center that included weather updates, pertinent advisories, and position reports. The flight was tracked via Outerlink, a satellite based fleet-tracking system used by the PHI communications center based in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The helicopter departed 7LS3 at 1402. The helicopter’s flight track, recorded by the Outerlink system, ended about 7 minutes after departure, at 1409. There were no reports of any distress calls or emergency transmissions from the flight crew on the PHI radio frequencies, or on any monitored air traffic control frequencies.

A search and rescue operation was initiated at 1414 after the US Air Force received a 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) distress signal with the helicopter’s unique identifier and location. Notification was made to PHI and the United States Coast Guard. Shortly thereafter, the helicopter wreckage was found partially submerged in a marshy bayou, near the location of the last Outerlink track. 

Data and audio recordings retrieved from the helicopter’s combination cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) indicated that the helicopter was in level cruise flight at 850 feet mean sea level (msl), traveling at 135 knots indicated air speed, when a loud "bang" occurred. Immediately following the "bang," sounds were recorded consistent with rushing wind, engine power reductions on both engines, and main rotor rpm decay. 


General Information

The twin-engine, 14-seat, 2-year-old helicopter was equipped with glass cockpit instrumentation, a combination cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR), an enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS), solid state quick access recorder (SSQAR), and a VXP vibration recorder. The two Turbomeca Arriel 2S2 turbo shaft engines were equipped with digital engine control units (DECU). All of these devices were recovered and evaluated for recorded information. 

Engine Control Quadrant Design

The Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter has an overhead engine control quadrant that houses two engine fire extinguisher T-handles, two engine power control levers (ECL), two fuel selector valve control levers, and various switches for other essential functions. The fire extinguisher T-handles, which are about 4 inches aft of the captain’s and first officer’s windshield, are normally in the full forward position, and are held in place by a spring-loaded pin that rests in a detent. Force is required to move the handles out of the detent and aft. In the event of an in-flight engine fire indication, the affected engine's fire extinguisher T-handle will illuminate, and the flight crew is trained to pull the illuminated handle full aft. In doing so, a mechanical cam on the T-handle lifts the trigger on the ECL out of a wedge-shaped stop, allowing the handle to move aft, which reduces the fuel flow to the affected engine. Eventually, the fuel flow to the engine is shut off as the fire extinguisher T-handle continues aft and pushes the fuel selector valve to the OFF position. The fire extinguisher system is then automatically armed and ready for the pilots to release the fire extinguishing agent into the appropriate engine compartment. 

The S-76C++ engine control quadrant is physically similar to previous models of the S-76 series (S-76A, S-76B, S-76C, S-76C+), in that the ECLs are located in the overhead engine control quadrant. The S-76A, S-76B, and S-76C use push-pull cables to manually control the engine throttle positions on each engine’s hydro-mechanical units. The S-76C+ uses an electronic engine control design with a manual push-pull cable reversionary mode. The ECLs of the S-76C++ series are based on a dual-channel allelectronic engine control design, in that the ECLs are attached to potentiometers that transmit ECL position electronically to each respective electronic engine control unit.


In 2007, about 2 years prior to the accident, PHI removed the original, factory-installed laminated glass windshields in N748P and installed lighter-weight cast acrylic windshields manufactured by Aeronautical Accessories Incorporated (AAI). The Federal Aviation Administration approved use of the replacement windshields under Supplemental Type Certificate SR01340AT, issued to AAI on April 16, 1997. The FAA also issued Parts Manufacturer Approval to AAI on August 3, 1998, for manufacturing of the replacement windshields. The helicopter’s windshields were replaced again in 2008, about 1 year before the accident, due to cracking at the mounting holes. 

Low Rotor Speed Warning Systems

The S-76C++ helicopter's integrated instrument display system (IIDS) provides the flight crew with engine and main rotor system performance information. Three IIDS screens are mounted in the instrument panel; one in front of the captain, one in front of the co-pilot, and one in the center of the instrument panel (the main rotor [Nr] information is only displayed on the pilot's and copilot's IIDS.) The Nr data is provided to the flight crew by a broad colorbar on the right side of the IIDS. The IIDS Nr colorbar is green when the helicopter's Nr is between 106 and 108 percent, yellow when the Nr is between 91 and 105 percent, and red when Nr is 90 percent and below, warning the flight crew of a critical, unsafe flight conditions requiring immediate action. The helicopter was not equipped with an audible alarm or a master warning light to alert the flight crew of a low Nr condition, nor was one required by 14 CFR Part 29.The IIDS also provides a visual caution legend such as "1 out of fly" to the crew any time an engine speed selector is out of the FLY detent with the weight off wheels. 


A review of the accident flight crew's training records indicated that both pilots had accomplished all required training and had completed emergency initial and recurrent training in ground school and in the Sikorsky S-76C++ simulator.

The 63-year-old captain had approximately 15,373 flight hours when the accident occurred, of which 14,673 were in rotorcraft; 8,549 as pilot-in-command; and 5,423 in the S-76. He held an airline transport pilot certificate for helicopters, and a commercial pilot certificate for fixed-wing airplanes. He also held an instrument rating for helicopters and airplanes. His last FAA flight proficiency check was on October 27, 2008. His first class FAA medical was issued on August 11, 2008, with a restriction that he wear corrective lenses while flying. He had flown 219 hours in helicopters in the preceding 90 days.

The 46-year-old co-pilot had approximately 5,524 flight hours, of which 1,290 were in helicopters, with 962 in the S-76. He held an airline transport pilot certificate for helicopters and a commercial certificate for fixed-wing airplanes. He also had a flight instructor certificate valid for giving instruction in single/multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. His instrument rating was valid for both airplanes and helicopters. His last FAA flight proficiency check was on April 25, 2008, and his last FAA first class medical was issued on February 26, 2008, with a restriction that he wear corrective lenses while flying. He had flown 205 hours in helicopters during the preceding 90 days. 


The weather conditions reported at Amelia, Louisiana, at 1430 CST were scattered cloud layers at 1,500 feet and 3,500 feet; a broken cloud layer at 10,000 feet; visibility 10 miles; winds at 160 degrees at 6 knots; temperature of 24 degrees Celsius; and a dew point of 19 degrees Celsius.


The majority of the major components were accounted for and recovered from the accident scene. Examination of the accident site indicated that the helicopter impacted on its left side on an approximate heading of 120 degrees. Extensive deformation on the left side of the helicopter was noted and exhibited signatures consistent with hydrodynamic and soft terrain impact. The largest portion of the helicopter came to rest in a marsh area and consisted primarily of the upper deck from above the cockpit area to the aft engine compartment. The corresponding lower fuselage section was adjacent to the upper deck. The two sections remained attached by wiring harnesses only. 

The tail boom was separated from the fuselage at the forward attach point (fuselage station 300) and exhibited extensive impact damage. The vertical pylon was partially separated from the tail boom and was deformed to the right side of the aircraft. The left-hand horizontal stabilizer was separated from the tail boom and the right stabilizer was attached but damaged. 

The number 2, 3, and 4 tail rotor driveshaft segments, along with their respective hanger bearings, appeared to have been pulled forward during the impact sequence and exhibited minimal rotational scoring/damage. The coupling disk packs were securely attached to each associated coupling and exhibited minimal distortion. The number 4 driveshaft was observed separated approximately six inches forward of the intermediate gearbox attach point. The number 5 driveshaft was securely attached to the intermediate gearbox and the tail rotor gearbox.

The tail rotor system exhibited extensive damage. The tail rotor gearbox output housing and gear separated from the gearbox center housing. The gear teeth appeared normal and did not exhibit any pre-impact anomaly. The blue, yellow, and black tail rotor blades exhibited minimal rotational impact damage. The black and yellow tail rotor blades had fractured just outboard of their respective hub retention plates. The blue blade was securely attached to the hub and the red blade was observed broken with “broom straw” damage approximately seven inches from the root end of the blade. The remaining section of the tail rotor gearbox housing was observed securely attached to the upper vertical pylon. The tail gearbox magnetic chip plug was removed and observed free of ferrous debris.

The four main transmission mounts were securely attached to the deck structure and did not exhibit any pre-impact damage. The transmission rotated freely. Continuity from the two input shafts to the main rotor head and tail takeoff was established. The magnetic chip plugs were removed and observed clean with oil still remaining inside of them. The transmission fluid level was observed to be in its normal state. 

The main rotor blade system exhibited impact damage consistent with low-speed rotation. The yellow and black main rotor blades were observed attached to the hub and predominately intact with some impact damage. The red blade had separated approximately 27 inches from the root end of the blade, and the remaining portion of the blade was recovered. The blue blade exhibited two separations, one at approximately 40 inches from the root and another about 12 feet from the root. With the exception of a small tip portion, approximately 8 feet of the blue blade was not recovered. 

The main rotor hub was observed securely attached to the main rotor shaft and exhibited substantial impact damage. The drive links and swashplate were intact and did not exhibit pre-impact damage. The four pitch control rods were observed securely attached and undamaged. The three main rotor servo actuators and associated hydraulic lines were securely attached and did not exhibit any pre-impact anomalies. The three primary servo actuators all displayed a part number of 76650-09805-111 and had experienced a recorded 1,104 hours of operations since overhaul, with an approximate total time of 3,400 hours.

The engines were mounted in the airframe engine compartment. The No. 1 (left) engine exhibited significant deformation of the left side and both engines were deformed from their respective mounts in a left-to-right direction. There was no evidence of fire, fuel leaks, or oil leaks.

The No. 1 and No. 2 axial compressor wheels rotated easily. There was evidence of some ingestion of mud and debris. The axial compressor wheel and blades were intact with some tip bending. The power turbine wheel rotated easily. The power turbine wheel and blades were intact and there were signs of blade rub on the bottom of the housing, consistent with a hard landing or impact. The short shafts were observed pulled out of the engine output coupling for both engines but securely attached to the transmission inputs. The flexible couplings and triangular flange exhibited minimal deformation.

Complete control continuity could not be established from the cockpit aft to the mixing unit due to impact damage and crush deformation of the airframe. Control continuity was established from the mixing unit to the flight control servos to the main rotor blades. No pre-impact anomalies were observed. All hydraulic fluid reservoirs were found to be full of hydraulic fluid with no evidence of leakage noted. 


Data from the Penny and Giles combination FDR and CVR were analyzed at the NTSB's Recorders Laboratory with download assistance from the manufacturer's facility in England and the US Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Alabama. Both recorders captured the entire accident flight. 

The CVR recorded the sound of a bang and a loud air noise followed by a substantial increase in the background noise level that was recorded on both intercom microphones and the cockpit area microphone. Less than a second after the bang and loud air noise, the CVR captured the sound of decreasing rotor and engine rpm. Seventeen seconds later, the recording ended. 

The non-volatile memory (NVM) from the engines' digital Engine Electronic Control Units (EECUs) was successfully downloaded and no faults were recorded. 


Engine Examinations

On January 22, 2009, the No. 2 engine, a Turbomeca Arriel 2S2, SN 21010, was disassembled under NTSB supervision. Other than impact damage, no anomalies were noted. The engine’s hydromechanical unit (HMU) was removed and examined. It was determined that it could be run on a test bench. Prior to running the HMU, the position of the resolver and the manual microswitch were determined. The resolver was at 59.33 degrees, which equates to a fuel flow of about 137 pounds per hour and an N1 of about 86.8 percent. The manual microswitch was found to be in the open or neutral position, indicating that the HMU was in the automatic mode. The HMU was then run on the test bench with no significant out-of-limits noted; however, there was a fuel leak observed that appeared to be from the varilip seal. As fuel pressure increased, the fuel leak decreased. 

On January 23, 2009, the No. 1 engine, a Turbomeca Arriel 2S2, SN 21022, was disassembled. Other than impact damage, no anomalies were noted. The engine’s HMU was removed and examined. Impact damage to the unit precluded it from being run on the test bench. The position of the resolver and the manual microswitch were determined. The resolver was at 28.38 degrees, which equates to a fuel flow of about 250 pounds per hour and an N1 of about 98.0 percent. The manual microswitch was found to be in the open or neutral position, indicating that the HMU was in the automatic mode. 

Flight Computer Memory Download and Testing

The FZ-706 Digital Flight Computer, P/N 7015480-903, S/N 05061626, was connected to test equipment and the error codes were successfully recovered. The most recent error codes included Error 20 (Actuator Reference Fail) and Error 18 (LVC Fail – Line Voltage Compensation). These codes are produced in pairs and occur when the avionics DC supply voltage is activated prior to turning on AC power (normal occurrence). The unit was then subjected to the Final Acceptance Test Procedure (ATP) and passed all ATP tests.

The FZ-706 Digital Flight Computer, P/N 7015480-903, S/N 05051607, was connected to test equipment and the error codes were successfully recovered. The most recent error codes included Error 18 (LVC Fail – Line Voltage Compensation) and Error 30 (Yaw Trim Fail). There were no date/time entries associated with the error codes; therefore, no conclusion could be made as to when they were generated. The unit was then subjected to the Final ATP and passed all ATP tests.

Testing of Bird Strike Remnants

A bird specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) examined the helicopter for evidence of a bird strike. Initial visual examinations did not detect conspicuous evidence of a bird strike. Swabs were then taken from the pilot-side windscreen, from an area of the windscreen that exhibited concentric ring fractures. Similar concentric rings were visible in the gel coat of the fuselage area just above the windscreen. The sample was sent to the Smithsonian Institution Feather Identification Lab for identification. Results from DNA testing on that sample showed that microscopic remains of a hawk variety bird were present. 

Additional swabs for bird remains were taken from the fuselage, empennage, various inlets, including the engines, and from the main rotor hub and main rotor blades. Examination revealed the presence of small parts of feathers under a right side windscreen seal, and in the folds of the right engine’s inlet air filter. 

Material consistent with bird remains was also discovered on the right windshield adjacent to the upper windshield frame structure. Additional samples were also found in the engine air filters. The Smithsonian Institution’s feather identification laboratory in Washington, D.C., identified all of the remains as belonging to a female red-tailed hawk, which has an average weight of 2.4 pounds.

Main Rotor Actuator Examinations

The systems group chairman directed computed tomography scanning of the main rotor actuators on January 9-11, 2009, and the entire systems group convened on January 26 and 27, 2009, in Santa Clarita, California, at the servo manufacturer’s facility to examine and document the main rotor servo actuators. The three main rotor servo actuators were subjected to X-ray computed tomography (CT) and digital radiography scanning to document the internal condition of the components. The scanning was conducted from January 9- 11, 2009. For the CT scans, each component was imaged by using approximately 300 to 500 slices with a resulting image file size of slightly over 2 megabytes for each slice. The slices were each 0.5 mm thick with a cross sectional pixel dimension within each slice of approximately 0.27 mm x 0.27 mm. The total number of slices collected was 1312, and the total scanning time was 59 hours. For the digital radiograph (DR) images, the actuators were subjected to a process similar to a conventional X-ray. The image was gathered using the same detector used for the CT scans, but the actuator remained stationary and the images contain elements superimposed on each other. 

Each data set was evaluated using the VGStudioMax software package to create a three-dimensional reconstructed image of the component. At some points, the actuator was too thick for the X-rays to penetrate with a high enough frequency to generate a good image. For each of the actuators, no evidence of broken parts, clogged hydraulic passages, or internal debris was found.

All three main rotor servo actuators were visually examined and no significant faults were found. All lockwire and cotter pins were in place. After the units were examined, they were all cleaned with a low-pressure solvent wash prior to being loaded into the functional test bench. 

Prior to functional testing, hydraulic samples were taken by capturing the fluid in the servos as it came out of the return port. The samples were collected for both actuator stages for each actuator. Patch testing was conducted on all of the fluid samples and the results showed no contamination of the fluid. 

The aft servo test results were all within the listed test tolerances. The lateral servo test results were all within the listed test tolerances except for the interstage position error test and the input force level (both systems pressurized, retract direction) test. The forward servo test results were all within the listed test tolerances except for the system 1 low side pressure switch test results.

The units were all disassembled and the removed components were examined. All of the plasma coatings were intact on the piston heads and no cracks or missing material was noted. There were some areas on the plasma coating that were shiny and appeared to be consistent with wear polishing. These areas were on the outboard side of the system 1 piston and the inboard side of the system 2 piston. These shiny areas were most pronounced on the aft servo pistons, less pronounced on the forward servo piston heads, and not present on the lateral servo piston heads. The balance tubes were removed and those seals were also intact and did not appear to be worn.


Helicopter Windshield Requirements

Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 29.631 includes general requirements for bird strike resistance for transport-category helicopters and states that, at a minimum, the helicopter should be capable of safe landing after impact with a 2.2-pound bird at a specified velocity. Title 14 CFR Part 27 contains no bird strike requirements for normal-category helicopters, even though they are frequently used for commercial operations such as emergency medical services and sightseeing flights. In addition, current FAA requirements for helicopter windshields in 14 CFR 27.775 and 29.775 do not mention bird strike resistance and simply indicate that "windshields and windows must be made of material that will not break into dangerous fragments." No definition is provided for the term "dangerous fragments," nor is there guidance as to how a manufacturer would show compliance with the requirement.

In contrast, performance-based requirements for airplane windshields specifically address bird strikes. According to 14 CFR 25.775, windshields for transport-category airplanes "must withstand, without penetration, the impact of a four-pound bird" at a specified velocity and also must be designed to minimize the danger to pilots from flying windshield fragments. According to 14 CFR 23.775, windshields for commuter-category airplanes "must withstand, without penetration, the impact of a two-pound bird" at a specified velocity. 

A 2006 study by Dolbeer, Wright, and Cleary, ("Bird Strikes to Civil Helicopters in the United States, 1990-2005," 8th Annual Meeting of Bird Strike Committee – USA, August 2006) which summarized the data for bird strikes on helicopters in the FAA’s National Wildlife Strike Database, concluded that (1) helicopters were significantly more likely to be damaged by bird strikes than airplanes, (2) windshields on helicopters were more frequently struck and damaged than windshields on airplanes, and (3) helicopter bird strikes were also more likely to lead to injuries to crew or passengers. The authors concluded that the "high percentage of windshields damaged for helicopters, combined with the disproportionate number of human injuries, indicates that improvements are needed in windshield design and strength for these aircraft." 

Replacement of Sikorsky S-76 Windshields

All S-76C++ model helicopters are delivered with laminated glass heated windshields that are 0.30-inch thick with a 0.12-inch thermally tempered glass ply outboard, a 0.12-inch chemically tempered glass ply inboard, and 0.06-inch polyvinyl butyral interlayer between them. In 1985, Sikorsky tested the laminated glass heated windshield for impact resistance for compliance with a European airworthiness requirement. During the tests, 26-inch square panels were impacted with 2-pound birds at a speed of 160 knots at an angle of 35 degrees. In some tests, the exterior glass layer cracked after the impact, but the birds did not penetrate the windshield panels. 

In the early 1980's, PHI had delamination issues with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) glass laminated windshields. In 1984, a PHI customer-owned S-76A, which PHI operated, was purchased with monolithic cast acrylic windshields. At that time PHI became aware that replacement monolithic cast acrylic windshields were available. In the following years (mid 1980's to 1990's), PHI began replacing glass laminated windshields on most of its S-76 fleet. Eventually, all newly purchased PHI helicopters were equipped with monolithic cast acrylic windshields manufactured by AAI. These windshields were manufactured under the AAI PMA and STC SR01340AT. PHI also concurrently removed the main gearbox-mounted AC generator that provides power for the windshield heaters. The cast acrylic windshields are not equipped with heating elements, and thus do not require the AC generator to be installed.

At the time of the accident in January 2009, PHI had a fleet of 46 S-76's, all of which were equipped with monolithic cast acrylic windshields. As of September 11, 2009, PHI still had a fleet of 46 S-76's, 32 of which had been re-fitted with OEM-type glass laminated windshields. This left a fleet of 14 S-76A++ (older aircraft) which still had monolithic cast acrylic windshields.

Other Sikorsky S-76 helicopters in PHI’s fleet also had their original windshields replaced with the cast acrylic windshields. AAI did not perform any bird impact testing on the cast acrylic windshields supplied for the S-76. The NTSB is aware of an additional bird strike incident on April 19, 2006, involving an S-76A++ helicopter operated by PHI that was equipped with a cast acrylic windshield identical to the one in the accident helicopter. The examination revealed a near-circular hole with radiating cracks near the top center of the right windshield. The bird penetrated the windshield and pushed the right throttle to idle. The trapped remains of the bird prevented the right throttle from being re-engaged, but the pilot was able to land the helicopter safely. 

S-76A Certification Basis

The original S-76A, Transport Helicopter Category B, was certified on November 21, 1978 (FAA Type Certificate number H1NE). The certification basis for the S-76A and all subsequent models of this series (Sikorsky S-76A, S-76B and S-76C helicopters) is 14 CFR Part 29 amendments 29-1 through 29-11. Additional regulations were complied with to higher amendment levels, but they are unrelated to the helicopter structure. 

Sikorsky Windshield & Windscreen Certification Basis

According to Part 29, AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: TRANSPORT CATEGORY ROTORCRAFT, Subpart D--Design and Construction Personnel and Cargo Accommodations Section 29.775, Windshields and windows: "Nonsplintering safety glass must be used in glass windshields and windows."

S-76C Certification Basis

The S-76C was certified in March of 1991 and was not required to meet the requirements in place at the time the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation applied to add the S-76C model helicopter to the existing S-76 type certificate. The S-76C Transport Helicopter, Categories A and B, were certified on March 15, 1991, and April 12, 1991, respectively. Although the S- 76C was certified in 1991, in accordance with their normal practices the FAA allowed Sikorsky to use the certification requirements in place at the time of the initial S-76A dated 1978. The practice of applying the requirements that existed at the date of the original certification is known as "grandfathering." The requirements in place for windshields and windscreens in 1991 were:

Section 29.775 - Windshield and windows:

"Windshields and windows must be made of material that will not break into dangerous fragments" (Amendment 29-31, Effective October 22, 1990).

S76A Windshield Testing

Sikorsky Aircraft intended to market the S-76A to the North Sea offshore oil operators. As the FAA had not yet established any bird strike criteria, Sikorsky and the windshield supplier qualified the glass-plastic laminate and later glass-glass laminate windscreens to the British Civil Aviation Requirements (BCAR), which required the windshield to resist penetration of a two pound bird at 160 knots. Tests were conducted in 1978 using the glass-plastic laminate (Canadian National Research Council Report LTR-ST.993) and in 1982 using the 
glass-glass laminate (PPG Report QSR-129910; Page 10-11). Both windshield designs passed the BCAR certification tests at impact speeds of 160-173 knots. Thus in 1978, the Sikorsky-installed windshields had already exceeded the FAA’s requirements that would have been imposed on a new aircraft at the time of the S-76C certification in 1991.

S-76B Windshield Testing

In order to comply with the British Civil Aviation Requirements (BCAR) during the S-76B certifications in October 1985 (Transport Helicopter Category B) and February 1987 (Transport Helicopter Category A), six windshields were tested in August 1985. The six test specimens were fabricated to a standard 26 x 26 inch bolted design and impacted with two-pound birds at velocities slightly above the 160-knot requirement. The first three windows were shot at ambient room temperatures of 70 +/- 5 degrees F, the fourth and fifth panels 32 +/- 5 degrees F and the last panel 20 +/- 5 degrees F.

For the first impact test the speed was 163.9 knots at a temperature of 73 degrees F. The panel survived the impact without any broken plies. Due to the undamaged condition the panel was tested again at a speed of 163.5 knots and a temperature of 71 degrees F. The panel passed the impact test without penetration although the outboard glass ply broke while the inboard glass ply remained intact. The third impact test was conducted at room temperature at a speed of 165.1 knots. The panel passed without penetration although the outboard glass ply was broken. The inboard ply remained intact after the impact. The two required 30 degrees F shots were conducted on the same panel, as the first shot did not cause any damage to the panel. The initial cold shot was conducted between 30degreed F and 32 degrees F at a speed of 161.2 knots. The second cold shot was conducted between 30 degrees F and 31 degrees F at a speed of 163.3 knots. The outboard glass ply was broken and the inboard glass ply remained undamaged and intact.

The fifth test was conducted at a temperature between 20 degrees F and 21 degrees F at a speed of 165.0 knots. The outboard glass ply was broken and the inboard glass ply remained intact. An additional test was conducted on one of the panels with a broken outboard ply. The test was conducted at 78 degrees F at a speed of 158.6 knots; no additional damage was noted. The panel was tested a third time at a speed of 161.8 knots with a two-pound gel package; again no damage to the inboard glass ply was noted. The final test did, however, cause the maximum stress and strain levels on the inboard glass ply.

All of the specimens tested met the prescribed test conditions of no penetration of a 2.0-pound bird at velocities slightly above 160 knots for the S-76B.

Supplemental Type Certificate Certification Basis/Cast Acrylic Windshield Information

The windshields in the accident helicopter were monolithic cast acrylic replacement windshields supplied by a third-party manufacturer, AAI. Installation and use of the replacement windshields was approved by the FAA under Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) SR01340AT, which was issued to AAI on April 16, 1997. The FAA also issued a Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) to AAI on August 3, 1998, for the manufacture of the replacement windshields.

AAI applied for the STC on November 27, 1996, and received approval on April 16, 1997. At that time, they were allowed to make parts only for their own use in their own aircraft. They would not be allowed to sell any windshields to other persons until after receiving their PMA approval.

As a holder of a PMA, AAI was authorized to manufacture the parts identified and to sell to any persons wishing to install the parts into a type certificated product per 14 CFR 21.303. The FAA Form 8110-3, Statement of Compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations, indicated that the FAA approval basis for the test and analysis were per 14 CFR 21.303(c)(4). The following is an excerpt from the FAA standards:

Part 21 CERTIFICATION PROCEDURES FOR PRODUCTS AND PARTS; Subpart K--Approval of Materials, Parts, Processes, and Appliances; Section 21.303; Replacement and modification parts.
(c) An application for a Parts Manufacturer Approval is made to the [Manager of the Aircraft Certification Office for the geographic area] in which the manufacturing facility is located and must include the following:
(4) Test reports and computations necessary to show that the design of the part meets the airworthiness requirements of the Federal Aviation Regulations applicable to the product on which the part is to be installed, unless the applicant shows that the design of the part is identical to the design of a part that is covered under a type certificate. If the design of the part was obtained by a licensing agreement, evidence of that agreement must be furnished.
(h) Each holder of a Parts Manufacturer Approval shall establish and maintain a fabrication inspection system that ensures that each completed part conforms to its design data and is safe for installation on applicable type certificated products. The system shall include the following:
(6) Current design drawings must be readily available to manufacturing and inspection personnel, and used when necessary. (Amendment 21-67, Effective October 25, 1989).

FAA Certification Requirements for Transport Category Rotorcraft

The following are the standards cited in 14 CFR Part 29, AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: TRANSPORT CATEGORY ROTORCRAFT; Subpart D--Design and Construction; General; Section 29.631; “Bird Strike”:

"The rotorcraft must be designed to ensure capability of continued safe flight and landing (for Category A) or safe landing (for Category B) after impact with a 2.2-lb (1.0 kg) bird when the velocity of the rotorcraft (relative to the bird along the flight path of the rotorcraft) is equal to VNE or VH (whichever is the lesser) at altitudes up to 8,000 feet. Compliance must be shown by tests or by analysis based on tests carried out on sufficiently representative structures of similar design.(Amendment 29-40, Effective 8/8/96)"

A review of the STC data package provided by the FAA revealed no documentation to indicate that AAI complied with the intent of 14 CFR 29.775 as specified in either section 2.1 or 2.2, or compliance with 14 CFR 29.631, as specified in section 3.1. As with a Type Certificate (TC), the applicable regulations for an STC are based on the date of application or an earlier date as agreed to by the Administrator, known as "grandfathering." The AAI STC was applied for on November 27, 1996. The FAA Form 8110-3 only indicates that the windshields are compliant with 14 CFR 21.303(h)(6). The FAA Form 8110-3 should also have made reference to 14 CFR 29.775 per section 2.1, had they been allowed to do so by the FAA, “grandfathered," or based upon the STC application date 14 CFR 29.631 as defined in section 3.1 and 14 CFR 29.775 as defined in section 2.2. In addition, compliance with section 14 CFR 29.303(C)(4), tests and analysis, as defined above was indicated as the FAA approval basis for AAI’s PMA. No records of the tests and analysis have been located by the NTSB or provided to the NTSB by either the FAA or the STC holder, AAI.

Manufacturer Safety Alert Regarding S-76 Windscreens

On May 19, 2009, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation issued a safety advisory (SSA-76-09-002) to all S-76 operators regarding the reduced safety factor of acrylic windshields (both cast and stretched) as compared to laminated glass windshields. According to the advisory, the S-76 laminated glass windshield demonstrated more tolerance to penetrating damage resulting from in-flight impacts (such as bird strikes) compared to acrylic windshields. Sikorsky expressed concern that the presence of a hole through the windshield, whether created directly by object penetration or indirectly through crack intersections, may cause additional damage to the helicopter, cause disorientation or injury to the flight crew, increase pilot workload, and create additional crew coordination challenges. 

U.S. Army Windshield Tests

The U.S. Army generally no longer uses cast acrylic windshields. Cast acrylic windshields may still be used in certain applications where it is necessary for an ejection seat to be able to easily break through the canopy. Two U.S. Army reports compared the impact resistance of windshields constructed of cast acrylic and different materials. One U.S. Army study ("UH-1 Ballistic and Bird Impact Test Study," Report AMMRC CTR 75-7, April 1975) reported on bird strike tests of Bell UH-1 helicopter windshields made of different materials. The UH-1 windshield materials tested included cast acrylic, polycarbonate, and a composite constructed of a layer of polycarbonate bonded to a layer of chemically tempered glass. The report concluded, in part, that the polycarbonate and the polycarbonate bonded to glass both offer far greater bird strike protection than a standard cast acrylic windshield. The report further indicated that a cast acrylic windshield at a cruising speed of 90 knots is incapable of defeating a bird strike, and that the Plexiglas breaks into large fragments that could cause serious injury to the flight crew. 

Another U.S. Army report ("Design, Test and Acceptance Criteria for Helicopter Transparent Enclosures," Report USARTL-TR-78-26, 1978) documented a study of the low-energy impact response of a number of different windshield materials. The materials tested included a tempered-glass laminate, a laminate of glass and stretched acrylic, monolithic stretched acrylic, monolithic cast acrylic, and monolithic polycarbonate. The report concluded that the cast acrylic needed to be three times as thick as the stretched acrylic or the polycarbonate to provide a similar level of protection against impact.

Hazards of Bird Strikes on Aircraft

Following its investigation of a March 4, 2008, crash of a Cessna 500 airplane, N113SH, that had a bird strike in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, (NTSB Aircraft Accident Report NTSB/AAR-09/05) the NTSB issued Safety Recommendation A-09-75 on September 29, 2009, asking the FAA to "require all 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 139 airports and 14 CFR Part 121, Part 135, and Part 91 Subpart K aircraft operators to report all wildlife strikes, including, if possible, species identification, to the National Wildlife Strike Database." 

Low Rotor Speed Warning Systems

Some single- and twin-engine helicopter models are equipped with an audible alarm and/or warning light to alert the flight crew of a low Nr condition. For instance, Bell Helicopter twin-engine models 212, 412, and 430 are equipped with an audible alarm and a warning light to notify the flight crew if the rotor rpm starts decaying and falls below the specified threshold. On July 9, 2009, the FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), titled "Flightcrew Alerting," that proposed revisions to 14 CFR 25.1322 regarding definitions, prioritization, color requirements, and performance for flight crew alerting for transport-category airplanes. The NPRM proposes to incorporate redundant sensory cuing (such as aural and visual) into alerts for conditions requiring immediate flight crew awareness. The revisions are based on human factors principles, with the intent to ensure that alerting systems in newly certificated aircraft facilitate flight crew performance. In a letter, the NTSB indicated that it supported the proposed revisions and acknowledged the significant advances in technology and alerting capabilities of aircraft. In addition, the NTSB recognized the importance of providing salient, recognizable cues through at least two different sensory systems by a combination of aural, visual, or tactile indications. 

Based on the main rotor speed decay information provided by Sikorsky, the flight crew of N748P had about 6 seconds or less to react to the decaying Nr condition. 

When the S-76 was certificated in 1978, 14 CFR 29.33 did not require an audible alarm or warning system for low Nr conditions. The subsequent revision to 14 CFR 29.33 in 1978 required a low Nr warning system in single-engine helicopters and in multi-engine helicopters that did not have a device that automatically increases power on the operating engine if one engine fails. Since the S-76 has a system that automatically increases power on the operating engine in order to maintain Nr, the accident helicopter would not have required an alarm or warning system even if the latest revision did apply. The NTSB is aware that both the Sikorsky S-92A and the S-76D (which is currently undergoing certification) have an audible low Nr warning, even though these aircraft are equipped with a system that automatically increases power in the working engine. Requirements for normal-category helicopters in 14 CFR 27.33 are similar. 

Flight Crew Training for Simultaneous Dual-Engine Failure

A review of the accident flight crew's training records indicated that both pilots had fulfilled all training requirements and had completed Sikorsky S-76C++ emergency initial and recurrent training in ground school and in the simulator. The emergency procedures section of the Sikorsky S-76 flight manual describes the dual-engine failure procedure while hovering, during takeoff and initial climb, and during cruise. Upon dual-engine failure, the helicopter will yaw to the left due to the reduction in torque as engine power decreases. An immediate collective pitch reduction would be required to maintain Nr within safe limits. In most instances, if dual-engine failure occurs a safe autorotation landing could be made.

According to PHI, prior to the January 4, 2009, accident, line oriented flight training (LOFT) for dual-engine failure was conducted in both ground school and in a simulator for visual and instrument flight rules conditions. Training was conducted so that one engine failed at a time, ultimately resulting in autorotation. Training for simultaneous sudden failure of both engines was part of initial training but was not part of annual recurrent training. Since the accident PHI modified LOFT to include sudden simultaneous dual-engine failure training both on the ground and in the simulator during initial and annual recurrent training.

A review of NTSB data indicates that from 1982 to present the NTSB has investigated 52 accidents involving loss of engine power in dual-engine helicopters, 23 of which resulted in substantial damage. In general, the causes of the dual-engine loss of power were due to fuel exhaustion, fuel contamination, and operational errors, among other factors. 

Materials Laboratory Examination of Windscreen Components

The parts examined from the wreckage at the NTSB’s Materials Laboratory included pieces recovered from the left and right windshields and pieces from the canopy structure that supported the windshields. The canopy structure included two pieces of the canopy and sill from above the windshields, pieces of the left and right doorpost structures that supported the outboard edges of the windshields, the center post that supported the inboard edges of both windshields, and pieces from the center of the nose and instrument panel that supported the bottom forward edges of the windshields and where the bottom of the center post was attached. 

No defects in the materials, manufacturing, or construction were observed. There was no indication of any pre-existing damage that contributed to the accident.

The left and right windshields were mirror images of each other. The windshield material was specified to be aircraft-grade cell cast acrylic sheet per military specification L-P-391, Item A, Type 1, Grade C, with a thickness of 0.312 inch. Markings indicate that the left windshield was manufactured in January, 2008, and the right windshield was manufactured in February, 2008.

The top edges of the windshields were approximately 30 inches long. The inboard edges were approximately 43 inches long. The bottom forward edges were approximately 34 inches long. The outboard bottom edges were approximately 17 inches long and the aft outboard edges were approximately 42 inches long.

Each windshield was attached to the canopy structure by 75 screws, which threaded into nutplates that were riveted to the canopy. Thickness measurements from random locations on the right windshield ranged from 0.307 inch to 0.324 inch. Thickness measurements from random locations on the left windshield ranged from 0.282 inch to 0.290 inch. 

The helicopter impacted the ground along its lower left side and separated along a generally horizontal plane into an upper part and a lower part. The upper part remained oriented along the line of flight, but the lower part came to rest with the nose directed to the left of the line of flight. 

In the area of the windshields, the upper canopy structure was separated from the lower canopy structure by fractures at the top of each doorpost and at the base of the horizontal arm of each wishbone, along with fractures at the top and bottom of the center post. There were no fractures through the frame of either windshield along the doorpost structures themselves. The center post was also substantially intact and remained connected to the upper canopy structure by electrical wires. 

On the right side, the doorpost was separated from the upper canopy by several fractures through the composite structure and by rivet pullout. Approximately 4 inches in from the outboard edge of the right windshield there was a vertical fracture through the lip supporting the windshield formed by the bonded canopy and sill pieces. 

Examination of the upper canopy revealed a puncture in the roof above the right windshield. A roughly rectangular area of the canopy was cut open to investigate the cause of the puncture, extending from 16 and 24 inches to the right of the centerline and from 1 to 4 inches above the edge of the windshield. No specific cause of the puncture was identified by visual examination. Swabs were also taken from this location for assessment of potential bird remains. 

In an area between 8 and 16 inches to the right of the centerline, the paint on the canopy above the top edge of the windshield exhibited a series of roughly horizontal parallel cracks. These cracks occupied an area that extended up approximately 6 inches from the edge of the windshield. In the area from 8 to 12 inches to the right of the centerline, and from 2 to 6 inches above the top edge of the windshield, the paint cracks were shorter and were continuous across the aft end of the fore-and-aft crack found at 8.5 inches to the right of the centerline. The most outboard of these cracks in the paint were found in an area not adjacent to any cracks in the underlying composite structure, whereas other areas of paint cracks were generally found to be adjacent to cracks or fractures in the underlying structure, within 1 inch or so.

The canopy and sill structures above the left windshield were fractured in two locations and these fractures were part of a system of fractures that separated the smaller left-side piece of the roof and sill structure from the rest of the canopy structure. On-scene photographs indicate that the two pieces of the upper canopy were still connected by electrical wiring.

The center post was separated from the upper canopy structure by fractures through the composite material accompanied by impact-related disbonding and delaminations. 

All of the fractures observed in the windshields were typical of brittle overstress, with fractures occurring on planes of maximum tension. Fracture features generally showed that the crack progressed more rapidly at one free surface than at the other, indicating fracture under tensile stresses resulting from bending, but some areas of fracture under nearly in-plane tension were also observed. Features on the fracture surfaces were used to determine crack propagation directions and the direction of bending. There were some cracks where the direction of bending changed from one part of the crack to another; in some cases this transition occurred smoothly and in other cases the crack arrested and then re-initiated under bending in the opposite direction. Primary or early cracks were identified by the continuity of the fracture surface and fracture features; secondary cracks either initiated or terminated at primary cracks. There was little symmetry between the fracture patterns in the two windshields. The left windshield was fractured into smaller pieces, consistent with the ground impact of the helicopter on its left side. 

The fractures in the windshields originated at multiple locations and consisted of several different systems of fractures. Although some small pre-existing cracks (on the order of 0.01 inch in length) were observed at the surfaces within the holes in the windshields for the attachment screws, the pattern of fractures in the windshields is inconsistent with fracture initiation resulting from a single pre-existing crack reaching a critical size. 

In general, the pieces of the windshields separated from the supporting frame by fractures that ran near or through the attachment screw holes. Not all of the pieces of either windshield were recovered, despite an extensive search of the bayou surface both around the point of impact as well as extending backward up the flight path. In general, the pieces that remained attached to the frame pieces after the accident were relatively small, typically extending 3 inches or less from the frame. The largest windshield fragments that remained attached to frame components after the accident were along the top edges and along the upper right side of the center post. The fractures in the right windshield along the top edge and on the center post generally formed a pattern of concentric curves and radial lines centered approximately 13 inches to the right of the centerline, at or above the top edge of the windshield. The center of this pattern coincided with the area of parallel cracks in the paint on canopy. Two of the secondary radial cracks in this area were centered on the crack in the canopy and sill structure 8.5 inches to the right of the centerline, just outboard of a vertical rib stiffening the bonded canopy and sill. 

Similar Bird Strike Incidents

A similar bird strike incident occurred on November 13, 1999, in Florida involving an S-76C+ helicopter, N276TH, operated by Palm Beach County. The bird did not penetrate the laminated glass windshield, but the impact force of the bird cracked the outer ply of the windshield and dislodged the fire extinguisher T-handles out of their detent; in this case, the ECLs did not move. 

The investigation also revealed an event in 2006 involving an S-76A++ helicopter windshield that was struck by a seagull. That helicopter was equipped with STC cast acrylic windshields identical to those on the helicopter involved in this accident. A photograph that was taken after the impact was examined by NTSB investigators. The examination revealed that the seagull penetrated the windshield and became lodged in the interior trim. Along the top edge of the windshield, fractures intersected the 2nd through 7th windshield mounting screw holes counting out from the center.

NEW ORLEANS — The owner of a helicopter that crashed in Louisiana in 2009, killing a Pensacola man and seven others, is asking a federal court to sanction the aircraft’s manufacturer for allegedly hiding a damning internal report to conceal its liability.

In a court filing last Friday, PHI Inc. claims Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. withheld a report by one of its lead engineers because his analysis concluded Sikorsky’s faulty design caused its helicopter to crash.

PHI is seeking court-ordered monetary sanctions against Sikorsky, which faces a federal trial in November for a batch of consolidated lawsuits filed by relatives of crash victims.

Charles W. Nelson of Pensacola, a 2002 Escambia High School graduate, who worked as an electrician, was among workers being carried to a Shell Oil Co. platform in the Gulf of Mexico when it crashed near Morgan City, about 100 miles southwest of New Orleans.

The crash killed both pilots and six passengers and critically injured a lone survivor, Steve Yelton of Floresville, Texas. The helicopter was owned by PHI Inc.

The PHI pilots killed in the crash were: Thomas Ballenger, 63, of Eufaula, Ala.; and Vyarl Martin, 46, of Hurst, Texas. The passengers were: Nelson; Andrew Moricio and Ezequiel Cantu of Morgan City, La.; Randy Tarpley of Jonesville, La.; Allen Boudreaux Jr. of Amelia, La.; and Jorey A. Rivero of Bridge City, La.

PHI says it wouldn’t have paid as much last year to settle plaintiffs’ claims if it had seen Wonsub Kim’s report beforehand.

“Sikorsky hid the existence of Dr. Kim’s analysis because it was not helpful to Sikorsky. In fact, Dr. Kim’s analysis undermines Sikorsky’s entire defense,” PHI attorneys wrote.

Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson said in an email that the company “strongly” denies PHI’s allegation and is prepared to “defend against it strenuously.” Jackson wouldn’t comment beyond that statement.

Investigators concluded a bird struck the Sikorsky S-76 before it crashed on Jan. 4, 2009.

Investigators found the remains of a Red-tailed hawk on the remnants of the pilot’s side windshield. They also found bird feathers under a windscreen seal and in an engine.

PHI says Sikorsky has claimed PHI was responsible for the crash because it replaced the helicopter’s original glass windshield with a plastic one that allowed the bird to penetrate the windshield and disable its throttle controls.

PHI, however, says Kim’s November 2009 report shows Sikorsky’s faulty design of the helicopter’s canopy and throttle quadrant caused the crash. Kim concluded the windshield doesn’t fail when a bird strikes a Sikorsky S-76 exactly where it did in this case, PHI says.

“Instead, the bird strikes causes the canopy to fail ‘substantially,’ which causes the throttles to disengage, turning off the engines, and leading to the crash just seventeen seconds later,” PHI lawyers wrote.

PHI claims Sikorsky intentionally kept Kim and his analysis hidden before it turned over his report on March 14, 2011. Yelton’s attorney, Paul Sterbcow, said they learned of the report’s existence while questioning a witness in February 2011.