Saturday, March 30, 2019

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Hummingbird 260L, N4045, accident occurred January 28, 2018 in Harrisville, Lewis County, New York

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Albany, New York

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Harrisville, NY
Accident Number: ERA18TA076
Date & Time: 01/28/2018, 1530 EST
Registration: N4045
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


The commercial pilot was conducting a cross-country flight in an experimental amateur-built helicopter that was equipped with an automobile engine. When the airplane was about 6 miles from the destination and at a cruise altitude of 500 ft above ground level, the engine sputtered once and then lost all power. The pilot performed an autorotation into a low-lying valley with short trees. During the landing, the main and tail rotors contacted the trees, resulting in substantial damage.

Postaccident testing revealed that one of the two electric fuel pumps did not operate when direct current was applied to it, indicating that the pump had failed during flight. According to the manufacturer, both fuel pumps are to be used for takeoff and landing, but only one fuel pump is necessary during cruise flight. The pilot was using one fuel pump during cruise flight, and the fuel pump that failed was likely the one in use at the time. The fuel pump failure resulted in fuel starvation and a subsequent total loss of engine power.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The failure of an electric fuel pump, which resulted in fuel starvation and a total loss of engine power during cruise flight.


Fuel pumps - Failure (Cause)

Factual Information

On January 28, 2018, about 1530 eastern standard time, an experimental, amateur-built Vertical Aviation Technologies 260L Hummingbird helicopter, N4045, operated by the commercial pilot, was substantially damaged during a forced landing, following a total loss of engine power during cruise flight near Harrisville, New York. The commercial pilot was not injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight that originated from Potsdam Municipal Airport (PTD), Potsdam, New York, about 1500. The flight was destined to the pilot's private residence in Harrisville, New York.

The pilot reported that helicopter was 6 miles from the destination at 500 feet above ground level, when the engine sputtered once and then lost all power. The pilot performed an autorotation into a low-lying valley with short trees. During the landing, the main rotor and tailrotor contacted trees, resulting in substantial damage. The landing gear also sustained damage.

The helicopter was assembled in 2010 and equipped with a Chevrolet LS3 engine. At the time of the accident, the airframe and engine had accumulated 456.8 total hours of operation. The helicopter's most recent annual inspection was completed October 29, 2017. The helicopter had flown 5.3 hours from the time of that inspection, until the accident.

Examination of the wreckage and testing of an electric fuel pump (one of two Airtex External Electric Fuel Pump, model No. E8445) by the pilot revealed that one of the two electric fuel pumps did not operate when direct current was applied to it. The pilot added that the operating manual stated that both fuel pumps should be on for takeoff and landing; however, only one fuel pump is required for cruise flight. The pilot added that it would have been safer to have both fuel pumps on at all times.

History of Flight

Sys/Comp malf/fail (non-power)
Fuel starvation (Defining event)
Loss of engine power (total)

Off-field or emergency landing
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 46, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/31/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 
Flight Time:  1946 hours (Total, all aircraft), 78 hours (Total, this make and model), 1176 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 5 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 4 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N4045
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 1079
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/29/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2700 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 5 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 457 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Chevrolet
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: LS3
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 290 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GTB, 690 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 25 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1556 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 235°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility: 10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3900 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 6 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 290°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.25 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 3°C / -2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Potsdam, NY (PTD)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Harrisville, NY (NONE)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1500 EST
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: 44.297778, -75.246944 (est)

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