Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Robinson R22 Beta, N5ZK: Accident occurred May 08, 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii

NTSB Identification: WPR13LA222
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 08, 2013 in Honolulu, HI
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22 BETA, registration: N5ZK
Injuries: 1 Minor,1 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 08, 2013, about 1520 Hawaiian standard time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N5ZK, collided with an unoccupied parked automobile following a total loss of engine power while maneuvering over Honolulu, Hawaii. HLM Aviation owned the helicopter, and Hawaii Pacific Aviation (doing business as Mauna Loa Helicopters) was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI) was not injured and the passenger sustained minor injuries; the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The local aerial observation flight departed from Honolulu International Airport about 1455. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The CFI stated that the purpose of the flight was for her to orbit the helicopter over an area known as Punchbowl, located about 5 nautical miles south of the airport. She departed as planned and proceeded to Punchbowl, completing two orbits before deciding she needed to add carburetor heat. The CFI slowed the helicopter to about 35 knots in an effort to help facilitate the passenger in taking his aerial photographs. While maneuvering about 3,000 feet above ground level (agl), the engine suddenly experienced a total loss of power, which was immediately followed by the low rpm light and horn activating.

The CFI further reported that in response to the engine failure she lowered the collective and entered an autorotation. She configured the helicopter at a 60-knot airspeed and maneuvered to land on a one-way street below that had no wires in the flight path. She began to flare about 40 knots agl and the helicopter touched down on the road and skidded into a parked automobile.

The wreckage was taken to a hangar for further examination.

The mechanic who is taking the blame for last week's helicopter crash in downtown Honolulu says he's buying a new copter for the company that leased the aircraft. He's also buying a new car for the college student whose parked Mazda was badly damaged when the helicopter skidded down a street. 

 Brant Swigart said Tuesday he's making the purchases to make up for not seeing the problem that caused the small helicopter's engine failure. No one was badly hurt when the pilot was forced to crash-land on the street, but Swigart said he feels terrible that it could have been deadly.

Buying a replacement helicopter for Mauna Loa Helicopters shows Swigart's character, said the company's president, Benjamin Fouts.

"He's just trying to take responsibility for what happened and make sure he does the right thing," Fouts said. "He's truly one-of-a-kind."

Soon after last week's crash, Swigart came forward to say the engine failure was his fault because he overlooked incorrect rigging that caused a cable to snap.

Fouts said while a brand-new Robinson R22 Beta can cost $270,000, Swigart will buy something that's similar to the condition of the 1992 copter. Fouts said he doesn't know how much that will cost.

Pilot Julia Link was a bit apprehensive about getting back in the pilot's seat, but she flew a helicopter Monday for the first time since the emergency landing. Fouts said he and Link went on a flight over Punchbowl Crater, which is where she was flying last week with a photographer taking aerial shots.

When the helicopter lost power, her knowledge of the area helped her land on a street that she knew was a one-way and had no overhead wires, Fouts said.

"I just couldn't believe how well she handled it," he said.

Swigart called the Hawaii Pacific University student Monday about replacing his car.

"I figure he's pretty much an innocent victim," he said.

Matthew Lau was taking final exams when the helicopter damaged his 2012 Mazda 6. He said he's not sure if he'll take Swigart up on his offer or go through insurance.

Lau, 28, said his insurance company is determining whether the car is a total loss.

"I respect he took responsibility for this," Lau said. "It's great that Brant came out and said he'd buy me a new one outright."

Lau said he had saved up while serving in the Army National Guard and doing three tours in Iraq to buy the brand new car.

Swigart said he doesn't have the $22,000 in cash to replace that car, but he'll either take out a loan or take care of Lau's new car payments.

"I'm trying to find money all day," he said. "I'll make it happen."

Swigart has been commended for taking responsibility, but he said he's just trying to do what's right.

"If his insurance company is going to sue, I might as well buy him a car," he said. "What's the point in me running and hiding?"

He said he also wants to try and prevent insurance rates from increasing for Fouts and Lau.

He said he doesn't regret coming forward and taking blame: "I just feel that's the way everybody should be."

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