Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Robinson R44, N459TA: Accident occurred July 21, 2019 in Ida Grove, Ida County, Iowa

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Des Moines, Iowa
Robinson Helicopter Company; Torrance, California 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Ida Grove, IA
Accident Number: CEN19LA230
Date & Time: 07/21/2019, 0845 CDT
Registration: N459TA
Aircraft: Robinson R44
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

On July 21, 2019, about 0845 central daylight time, a Robinson R-44 (Raven I) helicopter, N459TA, impacted terrain while maneuvering low-level near Ida Grove, Iowa. The commercial pilot and sole occupant sustained minor injuries. The helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Mid-West Helicopter, LLC, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 137 as a visual flight rules aerial application flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the Ida Grove Municipal Airport (IDG), Ida Grove, Iowa, about 0620.

The pilot reported the purpose of the flight was to apply fungicide to a field of corn. The pilot was spraying the field with north to south and south to north swath runs. Due to the location of obstacles at the field, the pilot was conducting teardrop turns to safely facilitate the swath runs. The obstacles near the field included trees, power line poles, and power lines.

At the end of his second north to south swath run, the helicopter came out of the field and executed a "gentle" tear drop turn to the left going about 25 kts. The pilot estimated his altitude at the time to be about 1.5 to 2 "telephone pole" lengths high. Once the turn was completed and the pilot was approaching the target field, the helicopter yawed "hard" to the left as shown in figure 1. The pilot attempted to correct the yaw with right tail rotor pedal input and the low rotor rpm light and horn activated. The pilot observed the engine rpm below "half" and dropping, along with the main rotor rpm, which had a "good spilt." The pilot reduced the collective and attempted a high hovering autorotation. Due to the lack of airspeed and altitude, the pilot reported the helicopter impacted a bean field "very hard." The helicopter came to rest on its left side. The pilot was able to egress from the helicopter without further incident. The pilot sustained minor injuries to his head and back from the impact.

Figure 1 - View of the flight path (courtesy of the pilot).

At the time of the accident, the pilot reported the temperature was about 64° F and the wind condition originated from about 030°, at 6 kts. He reported he was paying close attention to the carburetor heat temperature during the flight, as he had the carburetor heat lever pulled out "a little over half" and he kept the needle out of the yellow arc depicted in the carburetor temperature gauge. The pilot reported the manifold pressure was below 15 inches during the climb out from the field and once he would level out, he would never exceed 21 inches.

About 15 minutes prior to the accident, a loader from the operator reported that he loaded the helicopter with 30 gallons of water, 105 ounces (0.82 gallons) of AFrame fungicide, and 5 gallons of 100 low lead fuel.

A postaccident examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector revealed substantial damage to the main rotor system, the fuselage, the tail boom, and the tail rotor system as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2 - View of the wreckage (courtesy of the FAA).

The 4-seat capacity helicopter, serial number 1514, was manufactured in 2005. The helicopter was equipped with a Lycoming O-540-F1B5 reciprocating engine, serial number L-26448-40A. The helicopter was equipped with a Simplex Aerospace Model 244 spray system for aerial application usage. The belly-mounted carbon fiberglass tank can hold up to 75 gallons of liquid.

Mid-West Helicopter, LLC, is a 14 CFR Part 137 aerial application operator based in Holstein, Iowa, that provides helicopter aerial application services throughout Iowa.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N459TA
Model/Series: R44 Raven I
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Mid-West Helicopter, LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KSLB, 1488 ft msl
Observation Time: 1335 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 20 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 18°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / 13 knots, 60°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 6000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Ida Grove, IA (IDG)
Destination: Ida Grove, IA (IDG) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:None 
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 42.340833, -95.538056 (est)

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