Sunday, August 25, 2019

Robinson R44, N529DW: Fatal accident occurred June 09, 2018 in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin

Jonathan D. Bahr
May 27, 1991 - June 9, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Oshkosh, WI
Accident Number: CEN18FA215
Date & Time: 06/09/2018, 1229 CDT
Registration: N529DW
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Miscellaneous/other
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled 

On June 9, 2018, at 1229 central daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N529DW, was substantially damaged when it collided with wires during a low-level flight in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to and operated by MF Helicopters LLC as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 aerial photography flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed near the accident site at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated about 1226 from a field near the accident site and was en route to Wittman Field (OSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The helicopter was engaged in aerial photography operations for a boating event on Lake Winnebago. The helicopter was operating from a field on the Fox River, about 1/2 mile southeast of the accident site. The pilot and a photographer were airborne for about 1 1/2 hours flying at low altitude over a series of lakes and waterways while photographing the event. The photographer stated that he and the pilot flew over several bridges and sets of power lines during the flight, and they discussed that many of the bridges had power lines near them. He stated that there were no problems with the helicopter during their flight. The pilot then dropped off the photographer at the field before departing for OSH to refuel.

A surveillance camera captured the helicopter flying northwest when it struck wires that crossed a river. The video showed the helicopter pitching up as it struck the wires. The tail rotor separated from the helicopter and the helicopter descended into the water. Numerous witnesses also reported seeing the helicopter contact the wires and descend into the water. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 27, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/24/2017
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 12/07/2016
Flight Time:  559.6 hours (Total, all aircraft), 559.6 hours (Total, this make and model), 474.2 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 8.7 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 6.1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter ratings. He also held a flight instructor certificate with a rotorcraft-helicopter rating. The pilot's logbook contained entries between August 28, 2013, and May 30, 2018. The logbook showed that the pilot had 559.6 total hours of flight experience, all of which were in Robinson R44 helicopters. The pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration second-class medical certificate that was issued on May 24, 2017. The medical certificate did not list any limitations.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N529DW
Model/Series: R44 UNDESIGNATED
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2001
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 1109
Landing Gear Type: Ski;
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 03/15/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2394.5 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-540-F1B5
Registered Owner: MF HELICOPTERS LLC
Rated Power: 235 hp
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: OSH, 808 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1153 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 360°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 11 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 80°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.05 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C / 16°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Oshkosh, WI
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Oshkosh, WI (OSH)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1226 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 44.017222, -88.549444 (est) 

The helicopter contacted a static wire and a fiber optic line, which were the top two lines of an unmarked five-line array that crossed over the Fox River. The lines were about 100 ft above the water and spanned about 640 ft across the river.

The helicopter wreckage was located in the river about 300 ft northwest of the wire strike and was subsequently recovered. The entire structure of the helicopter sustained impact damage. Both skids remained attached to the helicopter. The floats were not deployed during the accident sequence but were inadvertently deployed during the wreckage examination. The cockpit area was crushed to the right and the left side of the canopy was missing. The floor of the cockpit was crushed upward.

The main rotor blades remained attached to the helicopter. Continuity of the main rotor system was established from the cockpit controls to the blades. A 180-ft section of 7-strand steel cable was wrapped around the main rotor hub and both rotor blades. The cable cut through one of the blades from the trailing edge to the blade spar about 66 inches from the blade tip and cut through the other blade about 38 inches from the blade tip. Numerous cable marks were visible on both blades.

The tail rotor separated from the helicopter during the accident sequence and was not located. The tailboom, tail rotor drive shaft, and tail rotor push-pull tube were fractured about 4 ft aft of the forward flex plate. The tail rotor drive shaft remained attached at the forward flex plate, which was deformed. Continuity of the tail rotor drive system was established from the cockpit to the fractures in the tailboom. Examination of the airframe revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Airport Information 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The pilot's death was attributed to drowning with blunt force trauma to the head.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Research Sciences Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on specimens of the pilot. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs in the testing profile.

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