Wednesday, October 5, 2016

McDonnell Douglas 369E, registered to and operated by Volcano Helicopters Inc, N311VT: Accident occurred October 04, 2016 in Waimea, Hawaii County, Hawaii

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Honolulu, Hawaii 

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

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

Volcano Helicopters Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N311VT

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA005 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 04, 2016 in Waimea, HI
Aircraft: MCDONNELL DOUGLAS HELICOPTER 369E, registration: N311VT
Injuries: 3 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.

On October 4, 2016, about 0910 Hawaiian standard time, a McDonnell Douglas Helicopter (MDHI), 369E N311VT, sustained substantial damage to the main rotor during initial climb from a remote location at Kohala Mountains near Waimea, Hawaii. The commercial pilot and 2 passengers were not injured. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by Volcano Helicopters Inc., under the provision of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a company flight plan.

In his initial statement, the pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to provide multiple external cargo lift deliveries between a construction project site located on the Kohala Mountain and various locations within the project boundary. 

At 0745, the helicopter took off from Hilo International Airport (ITO), Hilo, Hawaii with only the pilot on board and no cargo. Enroute to the Kohala Mountain project site, the pilot landed at the Hawaii Board of Water Supply's Kamuela reservoir to board two ground workers who manned a ground procedure of the external cargo tasks (connect, disconnect and handling of the cargo), and then flew to the construction site. Two passengers disembarked, after which the helicopter successfully completed an external cargo lift assignment. The helicopter then returned to a cargo platform at the construction site to jettison the 20-foot lift cable and to board the two ground workers and their accompanying baggage for the return ferry flight. The pilot reported that he pressed an electrical "Release" switch located on the cyclic to jettison the lift cable prior to takeoff. After the ground workers loaded their equipment and boarded the helicopter, they conveyed to the pilot via the helicopter's intercom system the completion of the loading, boarding and secure seating

The lift-off and departure into forward flight (climb and acceleration of speed) proceeded within instrument parameters specified in the operating manuals, with no indication of malfunction. The helicopter was established in stable departure on the enroute course and heading for the cruise altitude and speed.

During the initial climb, about 75 feet above ground level, and speed of about 20-25 knots, the pilot experienced a moderate aberration in the cyclic flight control, followed by a significant vertical vibration, and observed that the main rotor blade track had a substantial blade spread. The pilot performed a forced emergency landing to a nearby suitable area. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector conducted an examination and noted that one main rotor blade was missing about 6 inches of the blade tip, two other blades exhibited small impact serrations on their respective leading edges, and the remaining two blades were not damaged. No organic bird material was observed on the blades, but the inspector reported that it appeared as if "something metallic-like had struck the blades, however that object was not located." Other damages appeared to be post-impact, which included a cracked instrument panel at the bottom edge on both sides, left and right side of the fuselage above the engine area, tail rotor blades, vertical stabilizer damage at the upper end, and horizontal stabilizer damage on the right side, to include the vertical winglet. He also stated that the lift cable was not found in the helicopter or at the site. Furthermore, the inspector tested and confirmed no malfunction of the jettison switch used to release the cable.

After the helicopter was released to the insurance company, the pilot conducted an examination of the wreckage, and submitted a written addendum to the initial report of his finding. The addendum is appended to the docket.

In the addendum, the pilot confirmed that the lift cable and the main rotor blade tip were missing. The pilot again stated that after the completion of the airlift operation, he used the "Eject" switch to jettison the cable, and added that the ground crew of the external load operation coiled and loaded the cable on the floor of the rear cabin of the helicopter for the return ferry flight to base. Due to a necessity to continuously remain on the flight controls during the final loading, the pilot did not personally conduct an exterior preflight check. In addition, the helicopter was configured without the left and right rear cabin doors. The pilot inspected and tested the electric cargo hook system, and found no anomalies or malfunctions. 

The National Transportation Safety Board structural engineer examined the photos and concluded that one of the main rotor blades suffered extensive damage. The outboard 9 inches was separated, the blade spar was deformed aft, and the trailing edge was buckled along about half its length. Two other main rotor blades were scuffed/scratched in localized areas. The aft fuselage around the tailboom attach point was buckled and fractured. The horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer also sustained impact damage.

In the addendum report, the pilot reported that debriefing of procedures of the operation and emergency landing identified three additions to the current Pilot's Standard Operating Procedures.

1. Pre-flight Aircraft Exterior Check: The check of the tail and main rotor blade's leading edge protection tape shall be a requirement of the preflight checklist as an individual and separate listing.

2. Flight in "rear Doors Off" Configuration: All material or item loaded on the floor for a flight in the 'Rear door off' configuration shall be required to be physically secured to a tie-down fixture to prevent movement and loss from the cabin.

3. Unimproved field loading and departure procedures: In operations that require the pilot to continually remain at the flight controls, clearance is an advisory of the ground crew. The pilot shall validate the advisory with routine signal or voice communications reports on individual item, function or procedure.

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA005
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 04, 2016 in Waimea, HI
Aircraft: MCDONNELL DOUGLAS HELICOPTER 369E, registration: N311VT
Injuries: 3 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 October 4, 2016, about 0910 Hawaiian standard time, a McDonnell Douglas Helicopter (MDHI) 369E N311VT, sustained substantial damage to the main rotor during initial climb from a remote location at Kohala Mountains near Waimea, Hawaii. The commercial pilot and 2 passengers were not injured. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by Volcano Helicopters Inc. under the provision of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight which operated on a company flight plan. 

The pilot reported that he had completed transportation of an external load to a remote location. After landing, 2 passengers boarded the helicopter, and the pilot took off back to a staging area. Prior to take-off, he jettisoned a 20 foot longline used to transport a load from the cargo hook by pressing the hook release switch. During the initial climb, at about 75-100 feet above ground level, the pilot experienced a moderate aberration in the cyclic flight control, followed by a significant vertical vibration, and observed that the main rotor blade track had a substantial blade spread. The pilot performed a precautionary landing to a nearby suitable area.

During a post-accident examination, it was noted that a portion of one of the main rotor blade tips was missing, and that the blade was bent aft. Additionally, 3 blades exhibited scratch marks on their respective leading edges. Furthermore, the longline was not found in the helicopter nor was it recovered at the site.

The helicopter has been recovered to a secure location.

HILO — Three people walked away from a forced helicopter landing on Kohala Mountain that left the rotorcraft damaged but intact Tuesday morning.

The McDonnell Douglas 369E, with the pilot and two passengers, set down on the north slope of the mountain near Waimanu Valley, according to Hawaii County Fire Battalion Chief Darwin Okinaka, who said his crew staged at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea after receiving the alarm at 9:26 a.m.

“It was so remote only our helicopter was able to get up there, so we were staging down below, waiting in the event there were injuries … but no one was injured, so they were extricated to where their own private vehicles were parked,” Okinaka said.

Okinaka said he was told the rotorcraft experienced “heavy vibrations” before the pilot executed the emergency landing.

“It landed on the skids. It didn’t roll or anything, so he was able to land it safely,” he said. “There was some damage to the rotors. I believe the tail rotor was damaged from the landing, but I don’t know what damaged the main rotor. The fuselage was intact.”

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency will investigate. He provided the tail number of the copter, which is owned by Volcano Helicopters in Hilo. The helicopter’s airworthiness date is March 19, 1987, and its current certification was issued Feb. 5, 2004, and expires July 31, 2019, according to the FAA website.

Volcano Helicopters owner David Okita confirmed that he was the pilot, and the flight was contracted by Kohala Watershed Partnership, a public/private partnership administered by the Kohala Center, but declined further comment.

“The helicopter is still at its location. I don’t know what the plan to retrieve it is,” said Kohala Center spokesman Liam Kernell.

Kernell didn’t identify the passengers and said he didn’t know the flight’s purpose.

“Our crew does go out to inaccessible areas of Kohala Mountain to do fence monitoring and repairs and invasive species control from time to time. But I don’t know what the purpose of the particular mission was (Tuesday).

“All I know is that it landed on the top of Waimanu and that fire and EMS came and got everybody out and there were no injuries reported. The crew’s obviously a little shaken. … We’re getting together (Wednesday) morning to do a little debrief, so we’ll know a few more details then.”

Kernell said those aboard were instructed to go to the emergency room for a physical check-up.

“Everybody says they’re fine; they look fine. But we can’t say 100 percent without a doctor giving them a clean bill of health,” he said.

The landing site was in or near Puu O Umi Natural Reserve Area, which is administered by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, but no one, including the DLNR, could answer Wednesday whether the chopper landed on state or private property.

Source:  http://westhawaiitoday.com

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