Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bell UH-1H, King County Sheriff's Department, N790RJ: Accident occurred July 17, 2016 in Mt. Adams, Washington

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

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

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

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

King County Sheriff's Office: http://registry.faa.gov/N790RJ

NTSB Identification: WPR16LA142
14 CFR Public Aircraft
Accident occurred Sunday, July 17, 2016 in Mt. Adams, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/25/2017
Aircraft: BELL UH 1H, registration: N790RJ
Injuries: 8 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.

The commercial pilot was conducting a public flight in the helicopter to transport two search and rescue personnel to a landing zone located in mountainous terrain at an elevation of about 7,800 ft. The pilot reported that he aborted his first approach, which was from the north, because he felt that he was using too much left pedal. On his second approach, which was from the south, the helicopter yawed right. The pilot recognized that a loss of tail rotor effectiveness was occurring. He attempted to recover control by reducing the collective and applying forward cyclic; however, the helicopter spun and impacted the ground.

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation. It is likely that, during the landing approach, as the helicopter's airspeed dropped below effective translational lift and the pilot added power to compensate, there was insufficient left pedal to stop the resulting right yaw, and the pilot lost control of the helicopter due to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

The pilot’s failure to maintain yaw control as he slowed the helicopter during a landing approach, which resulted in the loss of helicopter control due to the loss of tail rotor effectiveness.

On July 17, 2016, about 1409 Pacific daylight time, a Bell UH-1H helicopter, N790RJ, impacted mountainous terrain while maneuvering near a landing zone located at an elevation of about 7,800 feet in Mount Adams, Washington. Two pilots, four crewmembers and two passengers were not injured; however, the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to and operated by the King County Sheriff's Department and was supporting a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed for the public flight that originated from Yakima Air Terminal/McAllister Field (YKM), Yakima, Washington about 1330.

The pilot reported that after refueling at YKM, he departed to transport two SAR personnel onto Mt. Adams to retrieve an injured hiker. While en route, a sensor unit on the helicopter indicated 5 knots of wind. As they approached the hiker from the north, the pilot used too much left pedal and decided to abort the approach. He attempted a second approach from the south, but the helicopter yawed to the right, which the pilot attributed to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE). In an attempt to recover, the pilot reduced the collective and applied forward cyclic. The helicopter spun about 540 degrees, impacted the ground, and then departed the mountain. The pilot did not observe any indications of a malfunction with the rotor or the drive system on the helicopter. In his subsequent report, he reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that could have precluded normal operation. The helicopter then returned to YKM. 

The FAA issued Advisory Circular (AC) 90-95, Unanticipated Right Yaw in Helicopters, in February 1995. The AC states that LTE is a critical, low- speed aerodynamic flight characteristic that could result in an uncommanded rapid yaw rate, which does not subside of its own accord and, if not corrected, LTE could result in the loss of aircraft control. It also stated, "LTE is not related to a maintenance malfunction and may occur in varying degrees in all single main rotor helicopters at airspeeds less than 30 knots."

Paragraph 6 of the AC covered conditions under which LTE may occur. It stated: "Any maneuver which requires the pilot to operate in a high-power, low-airspeed environment with a left crosswind or tailwind creates an environment where unanticipated right yaw may occur."

Paragraph 8 of the AC stated: "OTHER FACTORS...Low Indicated Airspeed. At airspeeds below translational lift, the tail rotor is required to produce nearly 100 percent of the directional control. If the required amount of tail rotor thrust is not available for any reason, the aircraft will yaw to the right."

Paragraph 9 of the AC stated: "When maneuvering between hover and 30 knots: (1) Avoid tailwinds. If loss of translational lift occurs, it will result in an increased high power demand and an additional anti-torque requirement. (2) Avoid out of ground effect (OGE) hover and high power demand situations, such as low-speed downwind turns. (3) Be especially aware of wind direction and velocity when hovering in winds of about 8-12 knots (especially OGE). There are no strong indicators to the pilot of a reduction of translation lift... (6) Stay vigilant to power and wind conditions."

NTSB Identification: WPR16LA142
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Sunday, July 17, 2016 in Yakima, WA
Aircraft: BELL UH1H, registration: N790RJ
Injuries: 8 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 July 17, 2016, about 1400 Pacific daylight time, a Bell UH-1H helicopter, N790RJ, impacted terrain while maneuvering near a landing zone located at an elevation of about 7,800 feet in mountainous terrain southwest of Yakima, Washington. Two pilots, four crewmembers and two passengers were not injured; the helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and the landing gear. The helicopter was registered to and operated by the King County Sherriff's Department as a public flight in support of a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated from Yakima Air Terminal/McAllister Field (YKM), Yakima, Washington at about 1330.

The co-pilot reported that the flight departed YKM to conduct an insertion of two SAR personnel onto Mt. Adams to extract an injured hiker. Both pilot and the co-pilot assessed the wind as light and variable. The pilot executed a reconnaissance approach from the north to south and expected a slight head wind. However, as he was using too much left pedal, he decided to abort the approach and execute a second reconnaissance approach from south to north. On the second approach, below effective transitional lift, at an altitude of about 100 feet above ground level, and pointed towards the mountain, the helicopter yawed to the right and then accelerated into a fast right hand spin. Both pilots immediately recognized the loss of tail rotor effectiveness. The pilot pushed in full left pedal and attempted to fly the helicopter away from terrain. After one and a half spins, the helicopter impacted the ground, bounced back into the air, and continued with a straight and level flight away from the mountain.

The helicopter then returned to YKM.

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