Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Robinson R44 Raven, N21EH: Accident occurred September 28, 2019 at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport (KSFM), York County, Maine

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Portland, Maine

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Sanford, ME
Accident Number: ERA19TA287
Date & Time: 09/28/2019, 1035 EDT
Registration: N21EH
Aircraft: Robinson R44
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional

On August 28, 2019, about 1035 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N21EH, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground while taxiing at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport (SFM), Sanford, Maine. The private pilot sustained serious injuries. The flight was operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 solo instructional flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Laconia Municipal Airport (LCI), Laconia, New Hampshire about 1000.

Witnesses reported that the helicopter was taxiing about 15 feet above a taxiway when it began to spin to the right. The helicopter then rolled over and struck the ground in a nose low attitude. First responders arrived at the scene and assisted the pilot; he was later taken to a local hospital for treatment.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the wreckage. Substantial damage was noted on the main rotor blades, tail rotor assembly, and fuselage. There was no fire. The inspector reported that the pilot was completing a three-leg cross-country flight when the accident occurred. He was receiving instruction on the R44 and was not rated in helicopters.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N21EH
Model/Series: R44 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: James Earl
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Does Business As: York County Helicopters
Operator Designator Code: 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SFM, 244 ft msl
Observation Time: 1056 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C / 14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , Variable
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Laconia, NH (LCI)
Destination: Sanford, ME (SFM) 

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: 43.393889, -70.708056 (est)

SANFORD — A helicopter crashed Saturday morning at the Sanford airport, sending its pilot to a Portland hospital with severe injuries, authorities said.

The Robinson R44 helicopter – a light four-seat model – crashed next to the runway at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport at 10:24 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration and local police.

Sanford police Sgt. Jason Wagner identified the pilot as Jack White, 50, of Bowdoinham. Wagner said White was the only person in the helicopter and was transported to Maine Medical Center with “severe injuries.”

A hospital spokesman said he had no information Saturday night about White.

Witnesses reported that the helicopter appeared to be practicing landing and/or near-ground maneuvers when it began rotating in an “uncontrolled spin” before hitting the ground, Wagner said in a statement.

Wagner said White’s flight was part of his helicopter licensing process. White had flown from the Sanford airport to multiple Maine and New Hampshire locations and was returning to Sanford to complete his flight, Wagner said.

“It is currently unknown the cause of the witnessed uncontrolled spin and resulting accident,” Wagner said. “Investigation into the incident will continue in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.”

Wagner told the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram that the helicopter, whose tail number is N21EH, had been rented, but he didn’t know from whom.

According to the FAA’s registry, a Robinson R44 helicopter, manufactured in 2000, with the same tail number is owned by Southern Maine Helicopter LCC, which is based in Sanford. The manager of the LLC is listed as James H. Knowles of Lee, N.H., who also lists a post office box in Sanford, according to records from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

Knowles did not respond to a phone message left Saturday afternoon.

The Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport is home to York County Helicopters. The company’s website was down Saturday afternoon, but an archived version says the company offers introductory flights, flight lessons, scenic flights and photographing flights. The company’s Facebook page includes a photo of a red helicopter with the same tail number as the one in Saturday’s crash.

Kellie Beauchesne, general manager of Pilots Cove Cafe, which is situated alongside the airport fencing, said she caught a glimpse of the helicopter as it hit the ground. She called 911.

“Everyone was in shock,” she said, adding that the restaurant was full at the time.

Beauchesne said a crew from LifeFlight of Maine, which is stationed at the airport, arrived quickly at the crash site.

The FAA will investigate the crash and the NTSB will determine its probable cause, the FAA said in a statement.

Terry Williams, a public affairs officer with the NTSB, said it could take a year and a half to determine the cause of the crash.

“We are in the very early stages of this investigation,” Williams said Saturday evening.

Investigators are currently gathering facts, including eyewitness accounts, and looking into the weather conditions, the helicopter’s maintenance records and the pilot’s training, Williams said.

The NTSB will likely release a preliminary report in a week to 10 days that will include some of the early information gathered, but it will not contain any analysis or cause, he said.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection was due at the airport Saturday afternoon to monitor a fuel spill connected to the crash, Lt. Kristen Hagan of the Sanford Fire Department told News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ).

Robinson R44 helicopters are among the world’s popular civilian models, and also see use with police departments.

Robinson Helicopter Co. in recent years has come under scrutiny from the Los Angeles Times, which published an analysis indicating that the R44 model has a high rate of deadly accidents per hours flown. The aviation company disputes that analysis, saying the FAA undercounts the number of hours its helicopters spend in the air.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. Last paragraph says it all. The Robinson's build an unsafe product and value share holders over lives.

  2. I don't consider them to be the best aircraft to learn in, but many do.

  3. ^^^^^

    "many do."

    Only because it is the CHEAPEST available.

    Cheap comes at a price ... With a Robinson, what you save in money comes at the expense of safety.

    Hope he recovers.