Monday, May 27, 2019

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Robinson R44 II, N755KT, accident occurred June 07, 2018 in Fort Morgan, Alabama

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Vestavia Hills, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Accident Number: ERA18LA161
Date & Time: 06/07/2018, 1340 CDT
Registration: N755KT
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Ferry 

On June 7, 2018, at 1340 central daylight time, a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N755KT, was substantially damaged during a forced landing to salt water after a loss of engine power near Fort Morgan, Alabama. The commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which departed Gac Waterfront Heliport (FD32), Navarre, Florida and was destined for Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR), Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The ferry flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to the pilot, he was delivering the helicopter to a Robinson factory service center at BTR. The pilot stated, "We were having trouble with the idle power of the helicopter. It was stumbling at idle power, but we had no trouble at the high-power settings. [A local] mechanic couldn't quite figure out what was going on with it, so we were going to have Robinson look at it."

The pilot said he departed FD32 and the engine idled smoothly at engine start. It then accelerated smoothly and ran continuously without interruption until the loss of engine power in cruise flight.

While in cruise flight at 400 feet along the beach at 110 knots, the pilot felt "violent shaking" and thought he had flown through turbulence. He added aft cyclic, lowered the collective, scanned the instruments, the shaking stopped, and he noted zero oil pressure, the oil pressure light illuminated, rotor rpm decaying, and he then entered autorotation.

The beach was "full of people" and he selected an unoccupied area in the water just off the beach for the forced landing.

The pilot held a commercial pilot's certificate and a flight instructor certificate, each with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued March 27, 2018. He reported 811 total hours of flight experience, of which 747 hours were in the Robinson R44.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the helicopter was manufactured in 2004. Its most recent annual inspection was completed April 25, 2018 at 1,395.1 total airframe hours. At that time, the Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 engine was reinstalled after an overhauled crankshaft and counterweights were installed and other work was performed. The helicopter had accrued 29 hours since the inspection.

At 1335, the weather recorded at Sonny Callahan Airport (CQF), 16 miles north of the accident site included scattered clouds at 6,000 feet and winds from 270°at 3 knots. The temperature was 30°C, and the dew point was 19°C. The altimeter setting was 30.00 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was examined at the site by an FAA aviation safety inspector. The tail rotor and its associated gearbox were separated from the helicopter and recovered from the water.

An NTSB air safety investigator examined the helicopter's engine about 1 week after its recovery, and he provided a summary of the exam. As found, the magnetos had been removed from the engine, opened, and lying by the pilot's seat. Several wire bundles were cut, and electrical system continuity could not be verified. The spark plugs were removed and the interior of the engine was examined with a lighted borescope.

All pistons and valves appeared intact, in "good condition," and displayed evidence of salt water corrosion. The engine's crankshaft was rotated by hand utilizing the fan at the engine's front. Thumb compression was obtained on all cylinders. Continuity was confirmed through the powertrain and valvetrain to the accessory section.

The mechanical fuel pump was removed and pumped fluid when actuated by hand. The auxiliary pump did not operate when electrical power was applied. The electric motor was disassembled and the brushes, wiring, and some windings were burnt. The pump was dry and did not display evidence of water contamination.

According to the helicopter manufacturer, engine operation can be sustained by the engine-driven pump only.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 31, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Instrument Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 03/27/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  811 hours (Total, all aircraft), 747 hours (Total, this make and model), 193 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N755KT
Model/Series: R44 II II
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2004
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 10294
Landing Gear Type: Skid;
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/25/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2500 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 29 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 1425 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-540-AE1A5
Rated Power: 245 hp
Operator: On file
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: KCQF, 92 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1835 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 27°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 6000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 3 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 270°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 19°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Navarre, FL (FD32)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Baton Rouge, LA (BTR)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1130 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

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: 30.222222, -88.018056 (est)

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