Sunday, May 03, 2020

Hughes 369D, N9159F: Accident occurred April 25, 2020 in Pylesville, Harford County, Maryland

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

Additional Participating Entities: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baltimore, Maryland
Rolls-Royce Corp; Indianapolis, Indiana
MD Helicopters; Mesa, Arizona 
Haverfield Aviation; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Pylesville, MD 
Accident Number: ERA20LA160
Date & Time: 04/25/2020, 1240 EDT
Registration: N9159F
Aircraft: Hughes 369
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load

On April 25, 2020, at 1240 eastern daylight time, a Hughes 369D helicopter, N9159F, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Pylesville, Maryland. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter was operated by Haverfield Aviation as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 133 rotorcraft external load operation.

The pilot reported that while he was performing human external cargo (HEC) long line operations, he was requested by ground personnel to support the movement of a conductor powerline nearby. He proceeded to the landing zone which was about 300-400 ft from the area requiring assistance, dropped off the HEC, and via the long line, he picked up a conductor hook, all from a hover, and continued to the area that needed support. He reported that after the hook was attached to the wire, he began maneuvering for about 10-15 seconds to move the wire a short distance laterally, as a crane was supporting the weight of the wire. During the maneuvering, the pilot applied "slight aft and up pressure" to move the conductor, there was no lateral banking, and the pitch attitude was about 5°-10° nose up. After the conductor was moved to the area needed, the pilot maneuvered to remove the hook, but prior to the hook becoming free from the conductor, the helicopter entered a left yaw and the engine began "spooling down."

The pilot reported that he subsequently heard the "engine out alarm" and entered an autorotation by "slamming the collective down" and immediately pulling the belly band release levers, which was the first of two release levers that needed to be pulled to release the long line. As the helicopter entered the flare, he pulled the collective up to complete the autorotation landing, however the long line remained attached to the conductor wire and became taught, which rolled the helicopter onto its left side, where the main rotor blades impacted the ground.

Multiple witnesses on the ground reported that they heard the helicopter's engine go "quiet" shortly before the autorotation.

The pilot reported that the loss of engine power occurred about 150 ft above ground level and the helicopter impacted the ground about 4-5 seconds later. The pilot reported that he did not have sufficient time to pull the main hook emergency release lever (the second release lever) located on the cyclic control, which was why the line remained attached to the helicopter. He added that the cyclic was also equipped with a red push button that could release the main hook, however, the circuit breaker for this electrically activated release was pulled due to HEC operations being performed just prior to the accident. Figure 1 shows the location of the belly band release lever located next to the collective circled in red (on an exemplar helicopter), and the second photo on the right shows the red push button electric main hook release and the main hook release lever located on the cyclic control (on the accident helicopter).

Figure 1: View of the belly band release lever (red circle) and the main hook release lever and pushbutton

The pilot reported that the belly band was a secondary cable support system required for when HEC operations were being performed, which they had been conducting just prior to the accident. Figure 2 shows the belly band, which is the blue band wrapped around the fuselage, and the main hook and long line circled in red.

Figure 2: View of the helicopter at the accident site with a belly band and long line

According to photographs provided by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector and the operator who examined the helicopter at the accident site, the tail boom and main/ tail rotors sustained substantial damage. Postaccident examination found 146 lbs (21.5 gallons) of fuel in the main tank, which could hold up to 421.9 lbs of usable fuel. There were no obvious signs of a catastrophic mechanical engine failure.

According to FAA airman records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a helicopter rating. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in April 2019. The pilot reported a total flight time of 12,408 hours, 8,500 hours in the make and model helicopter, and 101 hours in the past 30 days.

The helicopter was retained for further investigation.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Hughes
Registration: N9159F
Model/Series: 369 D
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Haverfield Aviation
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft External Load (133) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: THV, 486 ft msl
Observation Time: 1253 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 26 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 120°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3600 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Pylesville, MD
Destination: Pylesville, MD

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: 39.697222, -76.392778 (est)

HARFORD COUNTY — Maryland State Police are investigating a helicopter crash in Pylesville.

The pilot is identified as Andrew Rannigan, 34, of Chesapeake, Virginia. He did not require medical treatment for a minor injury he sustained.

At about 1 p.m. on April 25th, police were called to the 4400 block of Graceton Road, Pylesville.

A Hughes 369D helicopter that crashed in a field was found.

It went down while the pilot, who was the only occupant, was inspecting power lines.

Officials say the helicopter was from Haverfield Aviation and had been contracted for power line work by a utility company.

There is no word on the cause of the crash. The helicopter did not strike any structures or vehicles on the ground. No one on the ground was injured.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

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