Friday, March 23, 2012

Michael CHR Safari helicopter, N105KM: Accident occurred March 13, 2012 in Middle Valley, Tennessee

NTSB Identification: ERA12LA226 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 13, 2012 in Middle Valley, TN
Aircraft: MICHAEL S/MICHAEL K SAFARI, registration: N105KM
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Minor.

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 March 13, 2012, at 1745, eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur built, Michael CHR Safari helicopter, N105KM, registered to and operated by an individual, incurred substantial damage during an autorotation in Middle Valley, Tennessee. The pilot received minor injuries and the passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, personal flight. The flight originated from the passenger’s private property about 1735.

The pilot stated he flew about a mile from his home to reach the passenger’s property. He landed in an open field and secured the helicopter before assisting the passenger on board, and briefed him what to expect during the flight. The helicopter was started and maneuvered about 150 feet above the ground before flying over a wooded area near the passenger’s property. Not long into the flight, the pilot felt the helicopter’s engine surge. He decided at that moment to return to the open field that he departed from. While in the turn, the engine surged again, followed by a loss of power. The pilot performed an autorotation onto the trees below. The helicopter landed on top of a tree, which lower the helicopter gently as it bent over toward the creek below. As the helicopter reached the water, it rolled on to its side. Fuel from the fuel tanks spilled and caught on fire. The pilot was able to assist the passenger out of the helicopter moments after the start of the fire and contain the flames with creek water until the local fire department arrived and extinguish the flames.

The helicopter was retained for further examination.

Ivan Vernon and Steve Michael

HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- "They took skin off my thigh and graphed onto this arm," Ivan Vernon says as he points to his right arm.

Both of his arms are wrapped from shoulder to fingertips.

"Then they put pig skin on this one," says Vernon.

It's been nine days since the 91-year-old's first helicopter ride ended in a fiery crash in north Hamilton County. Now he's recovering, surrounded by friends and family including pilot Steve Michael.

"I've been flying since 1974," says Michael.

He says they'd been planning the ride in his homemade helicopter for three months. However, soon after take off Michael says the chopper began loosing power.

"I could tell something was wrong with the engine and I told him, I said, 'look, we got a problem,' so I started to turn back," Michael says.

However, they never made it. Michael tried to land the chopper in the trees without power.

"Well I really didn't know what was happening," says Vernon.

They crashed near a creek.

"Did Steve climb out over me and save himself? No! He started out over me and got me by the hands and pulled me out from under the chopper and just as he pulled me out it burst into flames," says Vernon.

"I pulled him out and we both sat in the water for a minute," Michael says.

They had survived what normally would end as a deadly crash.

"I was thanking God for another episode that he pulled me through," says Vernon.

The two walked away with their lives and a closer friendship.

"I was telling somebody it's kind of like when your playing with your kids, sometimes you hurt them accidentally and it makes you feel bad and that's kind of how I feel," Michael says crying. "I'm just glad he's back."

Michael says he built the homemade helicopter with his son after he returned from Afghanistan. They had flown it for three years.

When asked if he'd ever get back in a helicopter, Vernon says," I guess I would in time."


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