Sunday, April 07, 2019

Fuel Exhaustion: Enstrom 280C Shark, N67RE, accident occurred May 10, 2018 in Kerens, Navarro 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; Dallas, Texas

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Kerens, TX
Accident Number: CEN18LA167
Date & Time: 05/10/2018, 1745 CDT
Registration: N67RE
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The helicopter had recently undergone some major maintenance, andthe private pilotwas picking up the helicopter to return to his residence. The helicopter departed for the accident flight with about 35 gallons of fuel onboard for the 1.5-hour flight. During the flight, the pilot noticed that the transmission and cylindertemperatures had increased. The pilot subsequently performed an off-airport landing in a field,kept the engine running, and waited for the temperatures to return to normal. After the temperatures returned to normal, the pilot departed. While maneuveringat 1,000 ft above ground level about 1.5 miles from his residence, the pilot heard a noise or “bang” sound. The engine then lost total power, and the pilot initiated an autorotation, during which the helicopter impacted trees and terrainand then came to rest upright.

Postaccident examination of the helicopter revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. The examination revealed that both fuel tanks were empty and that the fuel system was not breached. Given that the pilot conducted an unplanned landing and takeoff, he should have accounted for the extra fuel used as he managed the fuel in flight. However, he did not do so, and his inadequate in-flight fuel management likely led to the loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion and the pilot’s inadequate in-flight fuel management.


Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)
Fuel - Fluid management (Cause)

Personnel issues
Use of equip/system - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information 

On May 10, 2018, about 1745 central daylight time, an Enstrom Helicopter Corporation 280C helicopter, N67RE, impacted trees and terrain following an autorotation after experiencing a loss of engine power while maneuvering near Kerens, Texas. The private pilot sustained serious injuries, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to and operated by a private individual as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and a flight plan was not filed. The helicopter departed the Wood County Airport (JDD), Mineola, Texas, about 1615, and was destined for a private residence.

According to the pilot, the helicopter underwent some recent major maintenance, and he was picking up the helicopter to return to his residence. Prior to the accident flight, he completed a flight review with a flight instructor in the accident helicopter. During the flight review, the pilot experienced issues with the radio and difficulty with trim control. A mechanic inspected the radio and completed unknown repairs. After the flight review, the pilot added 25 gallons of fuel for a total of about 35 gallons of fuel for the return flight.

During the return flight, the pilot noticed the transmission and cylinder temperatures increase on his instrument gauges. The pilot performed an off-airport landing in a field, kept the engine running, and waited for the temperatures to return to normal. After the temperatures returned to normal, the pilot departed. While maneuvering at 1,000 ft above ground level about 1.5 miles from his residence, the pilot heard a noise or bang sound. The engine then lost total power, and the pilot entered an autorotation. During the autorotation, the helicopter impacted trees and terrain, and came to rest upright in wooded terrain.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector completed an examination of the helicopter at the accident site, and at the aircraft recovery facility. The inspector noted the mixture control was found in the rich position. Both left and right fuel tanks were found empty, and the fuel tanks and fuel lines were not compromised. No mechanical failures or malfunctions were noted that would have precluded normal operations. 

History of Flight


Off-field or emergency landing

Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)

Loss of engine power (total)

Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 70, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/28/2016
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 05/10/2018
Flight Time:  269 hours (Total, all aircraft), 124 hours (Total, this make and model), 120 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N67RE
Model/Series: 280C C
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1979
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 1168
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/11/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2350 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 5433 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C91  installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: HIO-360-E1AD
Registered Owner: DOW WARREN L
Rated Power: 225 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: CRS, 448 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 14 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1753 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 275°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR): 
Wind Speed/Gusts: 12 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 170°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 29°C / 15°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: Mineola, TX (JDD)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Kerens, TX (63TX)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1615 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 32.005833, -96.150556 (est)


  1. Mineola to Kerns is only about 75 miles apart. What happened to the 35 gallons of fuel in 1.5 hours? or what about reading the fuel gauges?

    Educate me please.

  2. The heli ran out of fuel. Not difficult to understand and it happens often enough. Just like flying in bad weather. Some get luckier than others pressing the envelope. I read of a pilot recently bragging how they got caught up on top during a large regional storm but finally found a hole to get down through and avoid disaster. Another plane didn’t make it in the same storm resulting in a fatality. Obviously, due to their superior piloting skill and knowledge, he is still alive an accident was avoided. The accident chain continues and has no mercy.

  3. He obviously had less that 35 gallons of fuel when he took off. He had over 2 hrs of fuel if he was correct in his observation.

  4. they did not ask if the pilot measured the fuel qty with the stick, they don´t specify which engine tempearture was high, TIT or CHT, because both of them would indicate the opposite respect of fuel flow to the cylinders,