UNIVERSAL AVIATION LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N8325X
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Diego FSDO-09
NTSB Identification: WPR16LA132
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Monday, June 27, 2016 in El Centro, CA
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R44, registration: N8325X
Injuries: 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 June 27, 2016, at 2010 Pacific daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N8325X, experienced a loss of engine power during cruise and made a forced landing to an open field in El Centro, California. Custom Ag operated the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an agricultural crop dusting operation. The pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the tail boom. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the night local crop dusting flight that departed a private airstrip about 2000, the night of the accident.
According to inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot was transitioning from the airstrip to a crop that he would be spraying. At the time of the accident, the helicopter did not have any chemical spraying product onboard. The intent was to fly to the field, meet the truck with the chemical and upload the chemical product at the field.
Shortly after takeoff, while in cruise flight, the pilot felt a vibration, along with a low rpm horn, as well as a loss of engine power. The pilot decided to make an autorotation. During the turn into the wind, the pilot observed that the engine was still at idle. The pilot rolled on the throttle, as the engine returned to 100-percent, he raised the collective and the rpm decreased again along with an engine vibration. The helicopter touched down hard on uneven terrain; the right toe skid dug into the ground and broke, which caused the helicopter to roll onto its right side.
The helicopter has been recovered for additional examination.