Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Hughes 369D, N89ZC: Fatal accident occurred March 05, 2019 in Talking Rock, Pickens County, Georgia -and- Incident occurred August 22, 2018 in Ridgway, Elk County, Pennsylvania

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia
Rotor-Blade LLC; Georgetown, South Carolina 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Talking Rock, GA
Accident Number: ERA19FA118
Date & Time: 03/05/2019, 1130 EST
Registration: N89ZC
Aircraft: Hughes 369
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load 

On March 5, 2019, about 1130 eastern standard time, an MD Helicopters (Hughes) 369D, N89ZC, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain near Talking Rock, Georgia. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was operated by Rotor Blade LLC as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133 external load flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight, which originated from a nearby field.

The pilot was using a 10-bladed aerial saw to trim trees along powerlines when the accident occurred. A witness reported that the helicopter performed the upper pass, then came around for the middle pass when it began to spin counterclockwise. It completed one full rotation, and during the second rotation it struck trees before impacting the ground. The helicopter came to rest on its right side and the fuselage and tail boom were substantially damaged. Several witnesses noted that it was "windy" at the time of the accident.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. In addition, he held flight instructor ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. The pilot was issued an FAA second-class medical certificate on April 16, 2018, and at that time he reported 4,650 total hours of flight time, of which, 250 hours were in the previous 6 months.

According to FAA records, the helicopter was manufactured in 1981, and was registered to DAH Aircraft, LLC in May 2012. It was equipped with a Rolls-Royce 250-C20B engine. The main rotor had 5 main rotor blades that turned in the counterclockwise direction. The most recent maintenance was performed on February 18, 2019, at a Hobbs time of 2349.0; the 100-hr and 300-hr airframe inspections were performed at that time. At the time of the accident, the Hobbs meter on the airframe indicated a time of 2382.3 hours.

The 1135 recorded weather observation at Pickens County Airport (JZP), Jasper, Georgia, which was about 5 miles to the southeast of the accident location, included wind from 350° at 9 knots, gusting to 15 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 0° C, dew point -10° C; and an altimeter setting of 30.19 inches of mercury.

The helicopter impacted terrain at an elevation of 1250 ft mean sea level and came to rest on a heading of 037°. It struck multiple trees prior to impacting the ground about 25 ft from the initial tree strike. All major components of the helicopter remained attached to the airframe.

The helicopter came to rest on the right side of the airframe. The engine remained attached to the fuselage at all attach points. All 5 main rotor blades were bent; however, remained attached to the rotor head and were removed by recovery personnel. The fuselage was impact-damaged and the skin was dented on the right side. The skids remained attached to the fuselage and were undamaged.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the flight controls to the main rotor and tail rotor. The collective control remained attached to the control tube and was found in the maximum collective input position. Continuity was confirmed from the throttle to the engine through all push-pull tubes. The N2 trim operated when power was applied. The lateral and longitude trim operated when power was applied. The fuel quantity sending unit was removed and fuel was noted in the fuel tank. The fuel shutoff was not pulled, and the valve remained open.

The main rotor transmission fluid level was verified full using the sight glass. The k-flex engine-to-transmission drive shaft was rotated by hand and exhibited movement to the main rotor. No fingers on the main transmission k-flex driveshaft were broken. Continuity from the main rotor and tail rotor drive shaft was verified. The tail rotor k-flex couplings remained attached at all attach points and the bolts were torque-striped.

The over running clutch cup was separated from the engine. Residual oil was found when the clutch was removed from the housing. Rotational scoring was noted on the upper bearing support of the clutch. The upper bearing had grease on it. The over running clutch operated when the clutch was rotated in reverse. The over running clutch outer race exhibited a torsional fracture. The C-clip was removed and did exhibit tension.

All main rotor blades remained intact and were removed to facilitate recovery. The blades exhibited impact damage with minimal signatures of preimpact rotation. The tail rotor remained attached to the tailboom. Chordwise scratching was noted on both tail rotor blades. The leading edge of one blade was impact damaged. The tail rotor drive shaft remained attached to the transmission and was bent. The tail rotor control push-pull tubes also remained attached and were bent. The tailboom was fractured about 4 ft aft of the fuselage. The tail rotor drive shaft was removed for further examination. A small amount of rotational scoring was noted on the tail rotor drive shaft. The tail rotor pitch links remained attached. Oil was noted in the tail rotor gear box.

The engine-mounted fuel filter was removed, and fuel was noted in the bowl. No debris was noted in the fuel filter. There was a minor amount of debris in the fuel filter bowl. No water was noted in the fuel.

An inspection panel was removed in the cabin area of the fuselage to access the engine. The compressor impeller assembly did not rotate. The N1 turbine did not rotate. The drive gear connected to the over running clutch could be rotated by hand. The starter fan cover was removed, and the fan would not rotate when it was installed on the engine. The starter generator was removed and would rotate by hand. The combustion can was removed. The first nozzle exhibited no sign of thermal distress, cracks, missing material, or airfoil deterioration on the nozzle guide vanes.

The wreckage was retained for further examination. In addition, a Garmin 496 handheld GPS was located at the accident site and retained for data download. The helicopter over running clutch assembly was retained and sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Hughes
Registration: N89ZC
Model/Series: 369 D
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Rotor Blade LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft External Load (133) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: JZP, 1535 ft msl
Observation Time: 1135 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 5 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 0°C / -10°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 9 knots / 15 knots, 350°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.19 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Talking Rock, GA
Destination: Talking Rock, GA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  34.533333, -84.522500

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

John Edward Kent
1968 - 2019

John Edward Kent, 51, of Pomona Park, FL, passed away Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA after injuries from a helicopter accident. He was born in Orlando, Florida to Robert and Marie Kent. Johnny was a previous member of the Lake County Sheriff's Mounted Posse. He was a licensed helicopter pilot and instructor and a former lineman at Duke Energy.

Johnny loved riding his Harley motorcycle. He was most happy when he was helping others and anyone he met became friends forever. Johnny was known for his love of family, friends, and the outdoors. He loved traveling with his beautiful wife Brandi and living life to its fullest.

He is survived by and lovingly remembered by his wife, Brandi Kent; daughters: Ranen Kent and Brooke Lowe; grandsons: William Lowe IV and Ashton Kent; father: Robert Kent; mother: Marie Kent; brothers: Jimmy Kent, Robert Kent and twin brother, Charles Kent; along with countless nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and in-laws that number in the hundreds. 

In lieu of flowers, a fund has been set up at (please put Johnny Kent in the comments section). 

A Service will be held on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. (with visitation from 11:00 to 12:00 prior to service) at Hope International Church, 13806 SR 33, Groveland, FL 34736, with Pastor Tommy Cook officiating. 

PICKENS COUNTY, Georgia - The pilot of a tree-trimming helicopter  dies after he was rushed to the hospital following a crash Tuesday morning in north Georgia.

The Pickens County Sheriff's Office said the helicopter crashed off of Ellijay Road in Talking Rock just north of Highway 515.  

Channel 2's Tom Regan was the only reporter at the scene, where wreckage of the chopper was still on its side on the ground Tuesday afternoon.

Officials said the helicopter crashed as pilot, Johnny Kent, was towing a stem of saws under the chopper and cutting back tree limbs near power lines. 

Somehow, Kent lost control and crashed, officials said.

Regan talked to Kris Stancil with the Pickens County Sheriff's Office about how the crash happened.

"He hit a tree at some point," Stancil said. "The wind was pretty strong, so there's a possibility that the wind caused it."

The chopper plunged 60 feet to the ground, the saws taking down a tree stand nearby. The impact of the crash broke the helicopter apart, officials said. 

"It was kind of flipped over when it hit the ground," Stancil said. "He was hanging in the harness up against his neck. Fortunately there were some crews on the ground working with the flight crew, so they were able to get to his aide and call 911 to get here quickly."

Ken was alert and emergency medical services staff were able to communicate with him when they took him to the hospital by air ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital. Kent died shortly before 6 p.m., the Pickens County Sheriff's Office said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the cause of the crash.

Regan looked in to crashes involving aerial tree trimming and found that they are pretty rare.

Story and video ➤

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allegheny, Pennsylvania

DAH Aircraft LLC

NTSB Identification: GAA18CA506
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Aircraft: Hughes 369, registration: N89ZC

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Struck power line and landed safely in a yard.

Date: 22-AUG-18
Time: 16:50:00Z
Regis#: N89ZC
Aircraft Make: HUGHES
Aircraft Model: 369D
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Operation: 91


  1. Very high risk operation.


  2. That's an extremely dangerous job. I just saw the same model helicopter fly over my house yesterday with something large dangling from underneath it. I think it was part of an antenna tower but it was gusty and I could see that chopper swaying around up there. I wouldn't even fly a light plane in conditions like that.