Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Robinson R44, registered to KHGK LLC operated by Helicopter Solutions Inc dba Helicopter Adventures under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a commercial air tour flight, N828RD: Accident occurred July 24, 2017 in Myrtle Beach, Horry County, South Carolina

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; West Columbia, South Carolina
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Greensboro, North Carolina
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Van Nuys, California

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

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


Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Accident Number: ERA17LA257
Date & Time: 07/24/2017, 1316 EDT
Registration: N828RD
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (partial)
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Other Work Use - Sightseeing 

On July 24, 2017, about 1316 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44, N828RD, registered to KHGK LLC, operated by Helicopter Solutions, Inc., dba Helicopter Adventures, was substantially damaged during a hard landing near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The commercial pilot and 2 passengers were not injured. The helicopter was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a commercial air tour flight, on a company visual flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the local flight, which originated about 1310 from the operator's facility.

The pilot stated that after departure while on the Boardwalk Adventure tour flight when near the Sky Wheel, the helicopter started shaking like a "minor kick" which he initially thought was a stuck valve. Near that location he made a radio call to advise company personnel that a mechanic would be needed to meet the flight. He elected to continue the tour, and attempted to maintain about 70 knots with the engine operating at 25 inches manifold pressure (he did not report engine rpm), which resulted in a descent rate of 300 feet-per-minute. When he was near the departure helipad location, company personnel reported seeing white smoke trailing the helicopter, and the pilot noticed the alternator light was on. He started pulling power to slow the descent, but the low rotor rpm horn came on and the engine rpm spiked. Realizing he was unable to reach the intended helipad, he turned the helicopter with the slope of an adjacent field, and pulled full collective to cushion the landing, but landed hard.

The helicopter's drive train consisted of a V-belt sheave bolted directly to the Lycoming reciprocating engine's crankshaft. Four double V-belts transmit power to the upper sheave, which has an overrunning clutch in its hub. The clutch shaft transmits power forward into the main rotor gearbox and mast assembly.

According to the operator, the planned route was 7-8 miles, flown at 100 knots and about 900 feet. GPS tracking data indicated that the highest altitude attained was 898 feet mean sea level (msl), which occurred about 2 minutes 30 seconds after takeoff. After that time, the pilot continued on the tour route but began descending with corresponding groundspeed increase. The helicopter was not equipped with an engine monitor.

Postaccident examination of the engine compartment revealed the V-belts were coated with oil. The oil sump was drained and found to contain about 4.5 quarts of oil (minimum oil capacity for takeoff is 7 quarts). Further examination of the engine revealed the No. 5 cylinder pushrod (Lycoming part number 15F19957-35) and shroud was fractured in 2 pieces. The engine was removed and sent to a repair station where it was disassembled under the oversight of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector. Examination of the helicopter revealed damage to the skin of the tailboom.

During engine disassembly, valve train components from the No. 5 cylinder and some of the valve train components from the No. 4 cylinder (for comparison) were retained and submitted to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for examination. The governor was also retained for operational testing at the manufacturer's facility with FAA oversight, which revealed the unit passed all required service limits tests.

According to the NTSB Materials Laboratory Factual Report, examination of the No. 5 cylinder exhaust valve revealed no evidence of galling on the stem, and no change in surface roughness. Curved impact marks were observed on the face of the valve tip; the shapes of the impact marks were consistent with multiple impacts with the edge of the displaced rotator cap. The valve contact pad on the number 5 exhaust rocker arm exhibited an area of pitting consistent with fretting contact damage.

Examination of the No. 5 cylinder exhaust pushrod which was bent and fractured revealed the pushrod pieces were obliterated by post-fracture contact between the mating fractures. Gouges consistent with contact damage with the edge of the rocker arm seat and with the edge of the cylinder flange were observed on the side of the pushrod at the rocker arm end. The contact damage closest to the end of the pushrod was located in line with the inner radius of the bend. The wear pattern at the socket end of the pushrod was angled relative to the longitudinal axis of the pushrod, and was consistent with the pushrod axis angled relative to the socket axis, and the orientation of the angle was consistent with the orientation of the bend in the pushrod.

The No. 5 cylinder pushrod housing was fractured near the middle of its length; the fracture surfaces were rough consistent with fracture due to overstress loads. Rub marks consistent with contact with the pushrod were observed on the interior of the pushrod housing. The inboard end of the pushrod housing where it was inserted in the crankcase exhibited areas of impact damage with missing material consistent with contact with the edge of the tappet socket. Corresponding contact marks and material transfer were observed on the edge of the socket.

Examination of the valve train components from the No. 4 cylinder, and the springs, spring seats, tappet sockets, tappet bodies, and tappet plunger assemblies associated with both cylinders revealed no evidence of abnormal signatures.

A review of the engine logbook revealed the engine was last overhauled on June 21, 2016, and installed in the accident helicopter on January 15, 2017. The engine had accrued 358.2 hours since major overhaul at the time of the accident. The maintenance records reflect that the oil and oil filter were consistently changed every 50 hours or less in accordance with Lycoming Service Bulletin (SB) 480F (multiple logbook entries referenced SB 480E). Lycoming SB No. 388C, which is a repetitive procedure every 300 hours or earlier to determine exhaust valve and guide condition, was last accomplished at 298.3 hours since overhaul.

The company Director of Maintenance reported that prior to the accident, they were experiencing 3 to 4 stuck exhaust valves a year among their fleet, adding that none of them resulted in a fractured exhaust valve pushrod or pushrod housing. As a result of the accident, the operator decreased the repetitive inspection interval dictated by SB No. 388C from 300 to 200 hours, and increased the minimum exhaust valve clearance from 0.015 to 0.017 inch. Since incorporating the changes they have operated 60,711 flights, totaling 7,833 flight hours, flying 140,775 passengers, and have not experienced any stuck exhaust valves. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 26, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter; Instrument Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 06/02/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/28/2017
Flight Time:   1108 hours (Total, all aircraft), 530 hours (Total, this make and model), 1046 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 280 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 115 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N828RD
Model/Series: R44 UNDESIGNATED
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 1254
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/06/2017, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 60 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2498.3 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: O-540-F1B5
Registered Owner: KHGK LLC
Rated Power: 205 hp
Operator: Helicopter Solutions, Inc.
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As: Helicopter Adventures
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: MYR, 25 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1250 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 215°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 2000 ft agl
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 4900 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 14 knots / 20 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 270°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.97 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 24°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Myrtle Beach, SC
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Destination: Myrtle Beach, SC
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1310 EDT
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None
Latitude, Longitude: 33.720556, -78.894444 (est)

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