Saturday, September 21, 2019

Robinson R44, N827JE: Accident occurred September 17, 2019 in Sardis, Burke County, Georgia

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Atlanta, Georgia
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Sardis, GA
Accident Number: ERA19LA273
Date & Time: 09/17/2019, 1230 EDT
Registration: N827JE
Aircraft: Robinson R44
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

On September 17, 2019, about 1230 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44, N827JE, operated by Rowland Air Chem LLC, was substantially damaged during a forced landing near Sardis, Georgia. The commercial pilot was seriously injured. The aerial application flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight that departing a staging area in Sardis, Georgia, about 1220.

The pilot reported that he was flying about 100 ft above ground level, applying spray, when he heard a "pop," followed by alarms and lights activating in the cockpit. The helicopter then lost engine power and the pilot performed an autorotation. During the autorotation, the helicopter impacted trees and terrain.

Initial Examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that it came to rest on its left side. The inspector observed damage to the fuselage and the tailboom had separated. The wreckage was retained for further examination.

The recorded weather at an airport located about 10 miles southeast, at 1235, included wind from 310° at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, and clear sky.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N827JE
Model/Series: R44 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Rowland Air Chem Llc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: 2J5, 240 ft msl
Observation Time: 1235 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 34°C / 17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 310°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.98 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Sardis, GA
Destination: Sardis, GA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 33.028056, -81.787778

SARDIS, Georgia (WJBF) — A helicopter went down September 17th near Sardis. The crash was deep in the woods off of Benjamin Road, in southeastern Burke County.

Investigators say the pilot was the only person aboard the helicopter and he got out with minor injuries.

Lieutenant Randall Norman with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office told NewsChannel 6 reporter Devin Johnson the pilot was the only person aboard the helicopter. He was taken to the hospital, and deputies say his injuries were minor.

“We were met by the property owner just a couple miles down this driveway here,” explained Norman. “He allowed us access to the property, and we came to the area to make contact with the accident location.”

One property owner told Devin the helicopter was flying around her house around 11:30 am. But she says the aircraft did not sound normal.

“Well, the helicopter was flying low, explained Patricia Bargeron. “I mean it was not above my treetop. So it was flying low, and we have aircraft flying through here all of the time, so I know what aircraft sounds like.”

An official with the sheriff’s office says the pilot is Gary Rowland, a chemical contractor from Kite Georgia.

“He was spraying chemicals to kill the shrub oats,” said Bargeron. “Because they planted pines back there and you have to spray to make sure the pines have a chance to grow.”

Bargeron says when she heard the news, all she could think about was —  “That he was alive please God,” expressed Bargeron. “I didn’t want anything bad to happen to anybody.”

Lieutenant Norman says there is a lot of aircraft that take off from rural airports. And Fall is the season when more agricultural aircraft will be spraying crops.

“It’s not an everyday occurrence that you see,” explained Norman. “But realizing that we do have an airport here in Burke County and the Augusta area, the chance for it to happen is there.”

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration will be at the scene tomorrow around 9 am. They’ll start their investigation then. 

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