Friday, February 16, 2018

Schweizer 269C-1, N204HF, operated by Helicopter Flight Services: Fatal accident occurred September 08, 2017 at Flying W Airport (N14), Medford, Burlington County, New Jersey

Case ID: 180201141

Arthur Alan Wolk, Esquire
Michael S. Miska, Esquire
Attorney ID. Nos. 02091 and 309501 
1710-12 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA  19103 
Attorneys for Plaintiffs

ANGELA K. GENTRY, Individually and as Executrix of the Estate of TROY LEE GENTRY, Deceased


110 East Stewart Huston Drive
Coatesville, PA  19320 
110 East Stewart Huston Drive
Coatesville, PA  19320 
110 East Stewart Huston Drive
Coatesville, PA  19320 

Jury Trial Demanded

PHILADELPHIA (Courthouse News) — Five months after country music star Troy Lee Gentry died in a helicopter crash, his widow filed suit Wednesday against the aircraft manufacturers.

One half of the duo Montgomery Gentry, 50-year-old Gentry was slated to perform on Sept. 8, 2017, at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford, New Jersey, when he was offered a private sightseeing tour of the area.

Represented the Wolk Law Firm, Gentry’s widow says the throttle cable jammed soon after takeoff and threw the engine of the Model 269 helicopter into high speeds.

Angela Gentry says the failure by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and Keystone Helicopter Corp. to make the aircraft crashworthy left occupants no chance of survival in case of an emergency.

“The dangers from the lack of crashworthiness and defects in the engine, transmission and sprag clutch, throttle cables, engine attachments and absence of crashworthy features were unknown to the average user and consumer of this helicopter but well known to these defendants who made it a point to hide and deny and problems that could and did cause serious personal injury and death,” the complaint states, filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Rather than correcting these design flaws, the complaint says Sikorsky and Keystone chose instead to “treat … the helicopter and its engine like an unwanted burden.”

Gentry’s widow says no recommendations on how to deal with the emergency were available in the pilot operating handbook, and that the course taken here — to shut down the engine at an altitude of 959 feet — proved fatal.

“Because of defects in the engine, throttle cable attachment and collective control, the helicopter did not enter autorotation as expected, it did not disengage smartly from the transmission so the engine the rotors slowed to a speed lower than would permit a safe autorotation, thus allowing the helicopter to drop like a stone to the ground below, killing all aboard,” the complaint states.

A Tennessee native, Troy Gentey was father to two daughters, ages 15 and 24. Montgomery Gentry was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009. The band recorded six albums and charted more than 20 singles on Billboard’s Hot Country list, “Something to be Proud Of” and “Lucky Man.”

Gentry’s bandmate Eddie Montgomery, the brother of country star John Michael Montgomery, continued to tour as a solo act but will reportedly not keep the band going.

Their final album, “Here’s To You,” was released on Feb. 2. The duo had been working on the album at the time of the crash.

Sikorsky spokeswoman Callie Ferrari declined to comment on the allegations pending an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“We are fully cooperating with the NTSB and cannot comment further due to the investigation,” Ferrari said in a statement.

Original article ➤

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sikorsky; Coatesville, Pennsylvania
Lycoming; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Herlihy Helicopters Inc
Helicopter Flight Services

Location: Medford, NJ
Accident Number: ERA17FA317
Date & Time: 09/08/2017, 1300 EDT
Registration: N204HF
Aircraft: SCHWEIZER 269C
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 8, 2017, about 1300 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer 269C-1 helicopter, N204HF, operated by Helicopter Flight Services, was substantially damaged during collision with terrain while performing a forced landing to Runway 01 at Flying W Airport (N14), Medford, New Jersey. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the chief flight instructor for the operator, the purpose of the flight was to provide an orientation/pleasure flight to the passenger who was scheduled to perform in a concert on the airport later that evening.

Several minutes after takeoff, the pilot reported over the airport UNICOM frequency that he was unable to control engine rpm with throttle inputs. He reported he could "roll" the twist-grip, but that there was no corresponding change in engine rpm when he did so.

The company flight instructor and another certificated helicopter flight instructor were monitoring the frequency and engaged the pilot in conversation about potential courses of action to affect the subsequent landing. Options discussed included a shallow approach to a run-on landing, or a power-off, autorotational descent to landing. The pilot elected to stop the engine and perform an autorotation, which was a familiar procedure he had performed numerous times in the past. Prior to entering the autorotation, the pilot was advised to initiate the maneuver over the runway.

The company flight instructor reported that the helicopter entered the autorotation about 950 ft above ground level, and that the helicopter was quiet during its descent "because the engine was off." During the descent, the rotor rpm decayed to the point where the instructor could see the individual rotor blades. The helicopter descended from view prior to reaching the runway threshold and the sounds of impact were heard. Both instructors reported that a high-pitched "whine" could be heard from the helicopter during the latter portion of the descent.

A video forwarded by local police showed the helicopter south of the runway as it entered what appeared to be a descent profile consistent with an autorotation. Toward the end of the video, the descent profile became more vertical and the rate of descent increased before the helicopter descended out of view. No sound could be heard from the helicopter.

The pilot held commercial and instructor pilot certificates, each with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued April 12, 2017.

Excerpts of the pilot's logbook revealed he had logged 480.9 total hours of flight experience. It was estimated that he had accrued over 300 total hours of flight experience in the accident helicopter make and model. The last entry logged was for 1.2 hours in the accident helicopter on the day of the accident.

The company training records indicated the pilot had received the training required by the operator for employment as a flight instructor, and his last airman competency check was completed satisfactorily on April 19, 2017 in the accident helicopter.

According to FAA records, the helicopter was manufactured in 2000 and had accrued approximately 7,900 total aircraft hours. Its most recent 100-hour inspection was completed August 17, 2017 at 7,884 total aircraft hours.

At 1254, the weather recorded at South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY), 2 miles west of N14, included clear skies and wind from 260° at 13 knots gusting to 18 knots. The temperature was 21°C, and the dew point was 9°C. The altimeter setting was 30.13 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was examined at the accident site, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The initial ground scar was about 10 ft prior to the main wreckage, which was about 220 ft prior to the threshold of runway 01 and aligned with the runway.

The cockpit was significantly deformed by impact damage, and the tailboom was separated at the fuselage. The engine and main transmission remained mounted in the airframe, and all main rotor blades were secured in their respective grips, which remained attached to the main rotor head and mast. The pitch-change link for the yellow rotor blade was fractured, with fracture signatures consistent with overstress. Each of the three blades was bent significantly at its respective blade root. The blades showed little to no damage along their respective spans toward the blade tips, which was consistent with low rotor rpm at ground contact.

Flight control continuity was established from the individual flight controls, through breaks, to the main rotor head and tail rotor. Drivetrain continuity was also established to the main and tail rotors.

The engine was rotated by hand at the cooling fan, and continuity was confirmed from the powertrain through the valvetrain, to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed on all cylinders using the thumb method. The magnetos were removed, actuated with a drill, and spark was produced at all terminal leads. Borescope examination of each cylinder revealed signatures consistent with normal wear, with no anomalies noted.

The carburetor was separated from the engine, displayed impact damage, and was found near the initial ground scar. The throttle and mixture arms were actuated by hand and moved smoothly through their respective ranges. The filter screen was removed, and was absent of debris. The carburetor contained fuel which appeared absent of water and debris.

The collective control and jackshaft assembly as well as the associated throttle cable, push-pull tube, and bellcrank assemblies were retained for further examination at the NTSB Materials Laboratory.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: SCHWEIZER
Registration: N204HF
Model/Series: 269C 1
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Helicopter Flight Services
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  Pilot School (141) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KVAY, 53 ft msl
Observation Time: 1254 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C / 9°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots/ 18 knots, 260°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.13 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Medford, NJ (N14)
Destination:  Medford, NJ (N14) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  39.934167, -74.807222 (est)


Anonymous said...

So we - or at any rate some of us - have changed aviation, and for the worse. And the question is why that is: The decline of organized religion, the absence of real men, the rise of ersatz substitutes, the collapse of the family, the spread of mass media, the expansion of education, its descent into social engineering, the epidemic of over-medication, the metastasization of narcissism and the worship of the self (and selfies) ... Maybe we could have weathered two or three of these, but, we changed aviation too much too fast - and somewhere in the void a particular combination of factors incubated the depressingly similar trolls.

Anonymous said...

Why during auto rotate would the blades slow so much? It makes no sense

Anonymous said...

As the main rotor blades were observed as "slowing" during proper autorotation, I would have expected the NTSB to have also removed the main rotor shaft assembly and one-way clutch freewheeling unit. These items have never been reported to have been inspected in detail as a result of this incident.