Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bell 206B, owned and operated by Plains Aerial Leasing Inc, N60EA: Accident occurred October 24, 2017 in Groom, Carson County, Texas

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lubbock, Texas

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


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

http://registry.faa.gov/N60EA

Location: Groom, TX
Accident Number: CEN18LA020
Date & Time: 10/24/2017, 1540 CDT
Registration: N60EA
Aircraft: BELL 206B
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel starvation
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

On October 24, 2017, about 1540 central daylight time, a Bell 206B helicopter, N60EA, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power while on approach to a private landing zone near Groom, Texas. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter was owned and operated by Plains Aerial Leasing, Inc as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 137 agricultural aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the flight, and a flight plan had not been filed. The flight departed from an off-airport landing zone about 1515.

The pilot reported that he had been spraying fields "all day" in the helicopter before the accident occurred. After completing a field, he had the helicopter loaded with chemical and refueled from the helicopter operator's load truck. The pilot did not shut down the helicopter while refueling (commonly known as "hot refueling"). He stated that the fuel gauge indicated that there was 20 gallons of fuel on board when he departed on the accident flight. He flew to a 43-acre field which was about 8 miles away and began spraying. He stated that he flew steep turns while spraying the field. When all the chemical was dispensed onto the field, he made a steep "hard right turn" en route to the operator's base, which was located about 3/4 of a mile west of the field. About 40 seconds after making the hard-right turn and with the fuel gauge indicating 10 gallons of fuel remaining, the helicopter was on approach for landing. While on a right base leg to the landing zone and about 40 ft above ground level with about 35 kts airspeed, the pilot felt the "tail wag," and the engine stopped producing power. He performed an autorotation, but the tail impacted the ground during the flare which resulted in substantial damage to the helicopter.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the helicopter at the accident site. He examined the engine and there were no apparent anomalies visible. He manually turned the short shaft and the engine turned freely. The P3 line was intact and secure with no visible cracks in the line.

The FAA inspector examined the helicopter's fuel system and determined that the fuel quantity and fuel pressure gauges worked properly. The fuel quantity gauge indicated about 7 gallons of fuel remaining. The fuel pressure gauge indicated 2 psi. He drained the airframe fuel filter assembly and 2 spoonsful of fuel were obtained. He turned the fuel boost pumps on, and he stated that the boost pumps initially sounded like they were cavitating. He drained the fuel with the fuel boost pumps running and he obtained about 7 gallons of fuel. The fuel was free of contamination and water.

The examination of the helicopter's flight control system exhibited continuity. The breaks in the flight control system were consistent with overload fractures.

The engine was removed from the airframe and shipped to a test facility for examination. After a visual examination, it was placed on a test cell. The engine started and completed ground-idle, flight-idle, max-continuous-power and take-off power runs. The engine then completed "wave-off" max-power transients where the power was reduced to flight idle and then rapidly increased to take-off power. The engine responded normally without surging or hesitation.

The Bell Helicopter 206B Flight Manual stated that, if installed, the FUEL LOW light would illuminate with approximately 20 gallons of fuel remaining. It stated, "Land as soon as practical." (The accident helicopter did not have the Fuel Low caution light installed. The helicopter's total fuel capacity was 96.7 gallons)

The 206B Flight Manual contained this WARNING: "Operation with both fuel boost pumps inoperative is not authorized. Due to possible fuel sloshing in unusual attitudes or out of trim conditions and one or both fuel boost pumps inoperative, the unusable fuel is 10 gallons."

The 206B Flight Manual stated this WARNING: "One or both fuel boost pumps is inoperative. Descend to below 6000 feet pressure altitude if flight permits. Land as soon as practical."

The NOTE associated with the Warning stated: "The engine will operate without boost pump pressure under 6000 feet pressure altitude and one boost pump will supply sufficient fuel for normal engine operations under all conditions of power and altitude. Both fuel pumps shall be ON for all normal operations."

The pilot stated that he pushed the fuel boost pump circuit breakers in when he started the engine before the first flight of the day. He stated that he liked to confirm that the fuel boost pumps were operating when he started the engines. Similarly, he pulled out the circuit breakers when he shut down the helicopter at the end of the day to hear the fuel boost pumps turn off. Although he had refueled throughout the day, he conducted hot refueling between flights and did not shut down the helicopter. He stated that the boost pump circuit breakers were in during the accident flight. He also stated that he will pull the caution light circuit breaker to silence the low rotor rpm warning horn during ground operations. Both boost pump circuit breakers and the caution light circuit breaker had blue collars installed at the end of the circuit breakers which made it easier to identify and pull the circuit breakers.

At 1530, the surface weather observation at the Perry Lefors Field Airport (PPA), Pampa, Texas, located about 25 miles to the northeast of the accident site, was; wind 340° at 18 kts, gusting to 27 kts; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 18° C; dew point -7° C; and altimeter 30.40 inches of mercury. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 26, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/01/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/16/2017
Flight Time:  897 hours (Total, all aircraft), 280 hours (Total, this make and model), 160 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 42 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: BELL
Registration: N60EA
Model/Series: 206B
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1976
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 2068
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats:
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/10/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3201 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time: 9062 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: ROLLS-ROYCE
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: 250-C20B
Registered Owner: PLAINS AERIAL LEASING INC
Rated Power: 420 hp
Operator: On file
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: PPA, 3245 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 23 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1530 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 30°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 18 knots / 27 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 340°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.4 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / -7°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: Groom, TX
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Groom, TX
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:  CDT
Type of Airspace: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 35.222222, -101.238056 (est)

NTSB Identification: CEN18LA020
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 24, 2017 in Groom, TX
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N60EA
Injuries: 1 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 24, 2017, about 1540 central daylight time, a Bell 206B helicopter, N60EA, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power while on approach to a private landing zone near Groom, Texas. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter was owned by the Plains Aerial Leasing, Inc. and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 137 agricultural aerial application flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the flight, and a flight plan had not been filed. The flight departed about 1510 on a local aerial application flight. 

At 1530, the surface weather observation at the Perry Lefors Field Airport (PPA), Pampa, Texas, located about 25 miles to the northeast of the accident site, was; wind 340 degrees at 18 kts, gusting to 27 kts; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 18 degrees C; dew point -7 degrees C; altimeter 30.40 inches of mercury.

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