Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Robinson R44 II, N957R: Accident occurred September 18, 2012 in Slaton, Texas

NTSB Identification: CEN12CA643 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, September 18, 2012 in Slaton, TX
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N957R
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

After a local flight, the pilot positioned the helicopter onto its platform trailer. The helicopter’s left skid touched down on the metal surface and the pilot then lowered the right skid to the platform. The helicopter started to slip off the platform, so the pilot raised the collective to correct the problem. However, the helicopter fell to the left, the main rotor impacted the ground, and the tail boom was severed. The helicopter came to rest on the skids: the fuel tank was compromised and a post-crash fire consumed a majority of the helicopter.

  Regis#: 957R        Make/Model: R44       Description: R-44 Astro
  Date: 09/18/2012     Time: 2100

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: None     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Destroyed

  City: SLATON   State: TX   Country: US


INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   0
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   0     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    

  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Landing      Operation: OTHER

  FAA FSDO: LUBBOCK, TX  (SW13)                   Entry date: 09/19/2012
Stephen Spillman/Avalanche-Journal 
Helicopter crashed on Tuesday at the Slaton Airport.

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A Slaton pilot got out of a helicopter crash Tuesday afternoon with no injuries, officials said.

The crash occurred about 3:45 p.m. at Slaton Municipal Airport, according to Senior Cpl. John Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Glen “David” Guetersloh, 59, was attempting to land the rotorcraft when he lost control and the helicopter wound up on its side.

The propellers burst into flames after impact, burning most of the 2004 Robinson R44, according to Gonzalez.

Guetersloh was the only person on board and did not seek medical treatment.

He told the Avalanche-Journal he has been flying since he was 18 years old. He has logged close to 7,000 hours piloting helicopters and fixed-wing planes, he said.

He owns the helicopter and had just returned from Plains, where he was checking on his farm.

Guetersloh, an aerial firefighter, declined comment on the crash because of the ongoing Federal Aviation Administration investigation. FAA officers were on site Tuesday afternoon.

“It is what it is,” Guetersloh said. “You never think this will happen.”

Mike DeLano, assistant administrator with the airport, said the helicopter crash was the second one in the facility’s history. DeLano has worked at the airport for 12 years.

In 2004, a Highway Patrol helicopter doing emergency landing practice crashed at the airport, DeLano said. The pilot and co-pilot walked away.

A third crash at the airport involved an airplane and resulted in one fatality, he added.

Weather was clear with no obstruction and very little wind at the time of the crash Tuesday, DeLano said.

He witnessed the crash from inside the airport office. Although he is accustomed to hearing the sounds of planes and helicopters, the noise Tuesday was not normal.

“About the time it started tipping, it made a certain noise,” he said. “ ... You don’t pay much attention until it’s something different.”

DeLano estimated the whole helicopter was on fire about 10 seconds after the crash.

“The door may have been popped open on impact,” he said. “He had to get his seat belt off and jump out. David’s an experienced ag pilot, and that’s a very fast reaction time for anybody.”

The first step after the crash was to make sure Guetersloh and the construction workers were out of the way of any danger, DeLano said. The area of the airport is undergoing construction to redo the ramp.

Airport officials called for emergency responders and temporarily shut down the airport. It reopened about 5:10 p.m. after the FAA approved it, DeLano said.

Air pumps were secured to avoid fire damage, and the area was kept clear.

After the crash, the FAA interviewed Guetersloh. DeLano said the officers also would interview witnesses and then file a procedure report and haul off the remains of the helicopter.

“Normally, no, (a pilot who is involved in a crash is not fined), unless they’re doing something blatantly dangerous,” DeLano said, “which he wasn’t.”

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