Monday, May 27, 2019

Collision During Takeoff / Landing: Robinson R22 Beta, N337H, accident occurred February 14, 2018 in Charleston, South Carolina

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Columbia, South Carolina

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Charleston, SC
Accident Number: GAA18LA131
Date & Time: 02/14/2018, 1330 EST
Registration: N337H
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On February 14, 2018 about 1336 eastern standard time (EST), a Robinson Helicopters Inc., R22 Beta, N337H, landed hard in dense vegetation and the tailboom separated from the fuselage. The accident occurred about 5 miles southeast of Charleston Air Force/International Airport, South Carolina. The helicopter was registered to Spitzer Helicopter and was being operated by Holy City Helicopters as a visual flight rules (VFR), local instructional flight, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight instructor and student were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and flight following was not in effect.

The flight instructor reported that he had conducted training in the area previously and was familiar with the terrain and obstacles. The flight lesson was conducted to practice hovering, followed by a transition to forward flight.

The instructor reported that the wind was from the west/northwest about 10 knots, and that the direction of takeoff was into the wind.

According to the instructor, during the accident pattern the student had the flight controls and had transitioned the helicopter from a hover through effective translational lift and established forward flight. The student then initiated a right turn over dense vegetation when a small unmanned aerial system (UAS), which he described as a white quadcopter, appeared about 10ft in front of the helicopter at "eye level". The instructor took the flight controls and made a hard right and aft cyclic input to avoid the UAS. The evasive maneuver put the helicopter into a right quartering tailwind. After the evasive maneuver, the helicopter had some forward airspeed, "but not much". He was able to level the helicopter's attitude, but the helicopter began to descend quickly. The helicopter was about 40ft AGL and the instructor described the helicopter's descent as settling with power.

The helicopter descended, and the tail rotor entered the trees and the helicopter developed a spin to the right. The instructor rolled the throttle off to alleviate the spin, and then tried to cushion the landing by increasing collective. The helicopter impacted the ground, continued spinning to the right, and subsequently rolled over onto its right-side. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the tail rotor drive shaft.

The student pilot reported that they were operating over an access road and that she had initiated a right turn, "when a small white drone came into our field of vision". The instructor immediately took the flight controls and increased the bank angle of the right turn to avoid the UAS. As the helicopter "swung around" to miss the UAS, the tail rotor stuck the tree tops, and they lost tail rotor authority. The instructor entered an autorotation, and the helicopter collided with trees. The helicopter descended in a spin, impacted terrain and rolled on to its right side.

The day following the accident, Federal Aviation Administration, Aviation Safety Inspector's canvassed the vicinity of the accident, to include a housing development about ¼ mile from the accident site. The housing development was under construction and one member of the construction team remembered seeing the helicopter operating in the area about the time of the accident. There were several construction crews working during the time of the accident, and none of them recalled seeing a "drone".

The flight instructor reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation prior to the tail rotor strike.

A canvas of the area by the FAA did not find any information about the Unmanned Aerial System or witnesses.

Flight Instructor Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 27, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter; Instrument Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/04/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/30/2017
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 2480 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1500 hours (Total, this make and model), 2430 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 70 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 45 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Student Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 34, Female
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 15 hours (Total, all aircraft), 15 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N337H
Model/Series: R22 BETA II
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1999
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 2999
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 12/28/2017, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1370 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 7989 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: O-360-J2A
Rated Power: 124 hp
Operator: Holy City Helicopters
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  Commercial Air Tour (136)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCHS, 40 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 35 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1826 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 314°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 2500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.44 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Charleston, SC (CHS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Charleston, SC (CHS)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1300 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G

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:  32.491389, -79.544444 (est)

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