Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bell OH-58A, N519P: Accident occurred March 13, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Johns County, Florida

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. 

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Orlando, Florida

Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Accident Number: ERA19LA126
Date & Time: 03/13/2019, 1755 EDT
Registration: N519P
Aircraft: Bell OH 58A
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Public Aircraft - Local 

On March 13, 2019, about 1755 eastern daylight time, a Bell OH-58A, N519P, operated by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office was substantially damaged during a forced landing after a total loss of engine power in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The commercial pilot and mission crewmember were not injured. The aerial observation flight departed a designated landing zone at a local golf course at 1750, destined for the Northeast Florida Regional Airport (SGJ), St. Augustine, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site, and a company flight plan was filed for the public-use flight.

According to the pilot, the accident occurred on the third flight of the day, and he had performed a preflight inspection prior to each flight. All three flights were part of an aerial surveillance mission over a local golf tournament. The first flight was 90 minutes, and the helicopter was refueled prior to the second flight, which was 30 minutes. The accident flight departed the golf course landing zone with an estimated 340 lbs. of fuel on board. About 5 minutes after takeoff while orbiting at 1,100 ft mean sea level, the helicopter suddenly yawed to the left and the "low rotor" horn sounded. The pilot reduced the collective pitch, the horn silenced, he noticed the "engine out" and "master caution" lights illuminated on the instrument panel, and the engine tachometer showed a decreasing rpm. He performed an autorotation to a fairway on the golf course. During touchdown, the helicopter began to violently shake as it moved forward across the soft ground. As the windscreen began to crack and separate from its frame, the pilot increased collective to reduce the vibration and the helicopter came to a stop.

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed bending and buckling damage to the tail boom and the frame around the windscreen and doors. Fuel was present in the fuel tank and a sample taken from the tank was clear with no water present. No fuel or other fluid leaks were observed. A field examination of the engine by an NTSB investigator revealed that all the accessible fuel line "B" nuts had matching torque stripes and could not be loosened by hand. The engine components rotated freely by hand with no binding, and there were no visible indications of any components overheating. The starter operated normally. When the starter was engaged the first time, no fuel was present at the fuel spray nozzle supply line. After bleeding air from the fuel lines, operating the starter resulted in fuel flow at the spray nozzle. The airframe fuel lines were pressurized with shop air with no leaks detected. The engine was removed and retained for further examination.

The helicopter's most recent 100-hour inspection was performed on May 6, 2019, at an airframe total time of 8,209 flight hours. At that time the engine had accrued a total of 6,245 hours since new, and 638 hours since overhaul. Maintenance performed at the time of the inspection included a scheduled replacement of a bleed valve and replacement of an intermittent spark ignitor. The helicopter had flown about 21 hours since that inspection/maintenance.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and airplane single- engine land. At the time of the accident he had accrued a total of 822 hours of flight experience, of which 698 were in the same make and model as the accident helicopter.

The 1753 weather conditions reported at the Jacksonville Executive Airport (CRG), located about 10 miles northwest of the accident site included wind from 130° at 7 knots with gusts to 15 knots, few clouds at 5,000 ft above ground level, visibility 10 (statute) miles. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N519P
Model/Series: OH 58A No Series
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: St Johns County Sheriffs Office
Operating Certificate(s) Held:None  

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCRG, 41 ft msl
Observation Time: 1753 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 5000 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / 15 knots, 130°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: Ponte Vedra Bch, FL
Destination: St Augustine, FL (SGJ)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude:  30.206111, -81.403333 (est)

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