Sunday, July 23, 2017

Robinson R44 II, N3254E, registered to and operated by National Helicopter Service and Engineering Company: Accident occurred July 21, 2017 in Van Nuys, California

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Van Nuys, California
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Robinson Helicopter Company; Torrance, California

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA159
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 21, 2017 in Van Nuys, CA
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N3254E
Injuries: 4 Serious.

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 21, 2017, at 1211 Pacific daylight time, a Robinson R44 II, N3254E, landed hard following an autorotation near Van Nuys Airport, Van Nuys, California. The helicopter was registered to and operated by National Helicopter Service and Engineering Company, as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 revenue sightseeing flight . The flight instructor and three passengers sustained serious injuries, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage during the landing. The local flight departed Van Nuys about 1112. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed.

The three passengers and pilot boarded the helicopter at 1100 for what was to be a 1-hour tour around the Los Angeles area. The pilot reported that the tour was uneventful, and as they approached the airport for landing he heard an unusual sound. He glanced down at the engine tachometer, and it was higher than normal, indicating above 110%. About that time a passenger exclaimed that he could see a low rotor RPM warning light.

The pilot began manipulating the engine throttle to reduce power, and the rotor RPM began to drop. He continued to manipulate the collective and throttle controls, but the helicopter would not maintain altitude, and concluding that he could not make it back to the airport, he initiated an autorotation into a street below.

He stated that trees and power poles blocked his landing approach, and as such he did not have sufficient speed or space to perform an adequate flare, and the helicopter landed hard.

The helicopter came to rest on a street, in between the Los Angeles River and Highway 101, about 3 miles southeast of the approach end of runway 34L. The landing skids had splayed level with the belly during the impact, and the pop-out floats had deployed. The entire airframe exhibited buckling damage, and the belly was crushed. The tail rotor gearbox struck a fence, and had partially detached, and both main rotor blades remained attached to the mast, but had folded downwards.

A helicopter made an emergency landing in a Sherman Oaks neighborhood Friday afternoon, the California Highway Patrol said.

The helicopter landed just after noon in the 15000 block of West Valley Heart Drive, near the 101 and 405 freeway interchange, and the aircraft’s four passengers suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to a hospital, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.

The pilot made a mayday call to the Van Nuys airport before the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

No one on the ground was injured, authorities said, and no buildings were damaged.

After the incident, Valley Heart Drive was shut down between Noble Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard, officials said.

The passengers were two men, one woman and a teenage girl. All were outside the helicopter when firefighters arrived.

The Robinson R44 II is registered to National Helicopter Service & Engineering in Encino, FAA records show. The rotorcraft appeared mostly intact after the incident, although its rotor blades were bent and its windshield was shattered.

The helicopter’s damage was “substantial” the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency along with the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

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