Thursday, March 01, 2018

Robinson R44 II, N344MM: Accident occurred July 31, 2017 in Dunlap, Peoria County, Illinois

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Springfield, Illinois

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket  - National Transportation Safety Board:

Lesco Aircraft Leasing & Sales Inc:

Location: Dunlap, IL
Accident Number: GAA17CA450
Date & Time: 07/31/2017, 1119 CDT
Registration: N344MM
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 


According to the helicopter pilot, after an agricultural flight, he landed on the platform located on top of the truck to refuel the helicopter.

The ground crew connected the fuel hose and the chemical hose to the helicopter. The pilot was taking notes and his focus was inside the helicopter during the connection of the hoses.

The pilot reported that he did not expect for the chemical hose to be connected to the helicopter.

Once the helicopter had taken on the required amount of fuel, the pilot motioned to the ground crew using hand and arm signals, that more fuel would be required after the next flight.

The driver removed the fuel hose from the helicopter, then stepped back and made eye contact with the pilot. The pilot asserted that the ground crew then gave a "thumbs up" signal to the pilot. The pilot understood the signal to mean that the helicopter, "was clear and safe for departure."

The pilot returned the "thumbs up" signal and advanced the throttle. The helicopter ascended, and the pilot noticed the ground crew motioning that the helicopter remained connected to the chemical hose.

The pilot observed that the chemical hose was indeed still connected to the helicopter, and he applied aft cyclic.

The tail rotor struck the truck, followed by the main rotor striking the truck also.

Per the National Transportation Safety Board Pilot Aircraft Accident Report, the pilot noted that the accident could have been prevented if he had visually confirmed, "with his own eyes, that all possible connecting hoses were in fact, not connected and the departure could be safely executed."

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to visually confirm that the helicopter was disconnected from hoses during refueling operations. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's and ground crew's misunderstanding of the hand signals.


Personnel issues
Lack of action - Pilot (Cause)
Accuracy of communication - Ground crew (Factor)

Environmental issues
Ground equipment - Effect on operation (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight
Aircraft servicing event

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 46, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/02/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/06/2017
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 9199 hours (Total, all aircraft), 574 hours (Total, this make and model), 9199 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 42 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 12 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N344MM
Model/Series: R44 II
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 11280
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/10/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2500 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2906 Hours
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: IO-540-F1B5
Rated Power: 260 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KPIA, 662 ft msl
Observation Time: 1554 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 181°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 5500 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 16°C
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Light and Variable, Variable
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.21 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Monmouth, IL (C66)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Monmouth, IL (C66)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0700 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:  40.861667, -89.678611 (est)

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