Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Hiller-Soloy UH-12DT, N2297W: Fatal accident occurred July 17, 2020 in Mehama, Marion County, Oregon

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Hillsboro, Oregon

Location: Mehama, OR
Accident Number: WPR20LA224
Date & Time: 07/17/2020, 0854 PDT
Registration: N2297W
Aircraft: Hiller UH 12D
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On July 17, 2020, at about 0854 Pacific daylight time, a Hiller UH-12D helicopter, N2297W, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Mehama, Oregon. The pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 137 aerial application flight.

There were no witnesses to the accident. The support truck operator reported that the helicopter departed from the truck and flew towards the next field. Shortly after departing the truck operator heard the pilot report over the radio that he was "going down."

The helicopter impacted patch of tall trees in between Christmas tree fields. The helicopter came to rest upside down at the base of a tree. A post impact fire ensued and completely consumed the cabin area and engine compartment. The trees slightly west of the accident site were topped.

The operator reported that the turbine section of the engine had been removed and reinstalled three times in the past month due to continued problems with the engine. After final repairs, about a week before the accident, the helicopter was returned to service.

The helicopter has been recovered for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Hiller
Registration: N2297W
Model/Series: UH 12D No Series
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Western Helicopters
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: SLE, 213 ft msl
Observation Time: 0856 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 18 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 2000 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 320°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3800 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.09 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Mehama, OR
Destination: Mehama, OR

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 44.794722, -122.619167

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

First responders on scene of fatal helicopter crash on July 17th, 2020 in rural Marion County, Oregon.

A helicopter piloted by Terry Harchenko with Industrial Aviation Services Inc, drops off a bundle of Christmas trees during a harvest at Hupp Farms on October 27, 2017, outside of Silverton, Oregon.

MEHAMA, Oregon — A helicopter pilot spraying Christmas trees east of Salem was killed July 17th in a crash shortly before 9 a.m.

Terry Harchenko, 65, was flying for Western Helicopter Services, a company that specializes in aerial spraying. The crash was reported near a Christmas tree field along Fern Ridge Road north of Mehama, Oregon. No one else was in the helicopter.

Sgt. Jeremy Landers, with the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said it is not clear why the helicopter crashed. The 1960 Hiller aircraft was found in a tree line next to the Christmas tree field where Harchenko was spraying. Investigators have contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

Paul Washburn, branch manager for Western Helicopter Services in Newberg, said Harchenko was well known among Willamette Valley farmers from Albany to Woodburn. Harchenko's father founded Industrial Aviation Services in Salem, which was purchased by Western Helicopter Services in January.

"He's been in the flying industry since he was a young man," Washburn said. "I couldn't even begin to tell you how many hours of flight he had."

Washburn described Harchenko as a humble guy, eager to serve and passionate about flying.

"He was always willing to help everybody," Washburn said. "He enjoyed his industry and was a large part of it."

According to the company's website, Western Helicopter Services employs 5 full-time pilots with more than 100,000 hours of pilot-in-command flight time. It is licensed to spray in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah and California.

In addition to forestry work, Western Helicopter Services also works with several county vector control districts in Oregon and Washington. The company also flies aerial surveys for Oregon State University's grass seed certification program.

Washburn said the sudden loss of Harchenko has left his co-workers in shock and mourning.

"It will be a long healing process to come to terms with it," Washburn said. "We are mourning for Terry, and will be for quite some time."

The Marion County Sheriff's Office was assisted on scene by the Stayton Fire District, Oregon Department of Forestry, Polk County Sheriff's Office and the Marion County Medical Examiner's Office.


  1. I am curious as to what he was spraying on the trees?

  2. "The pesticides that are most commonly used and labeled for bark beetle control have bifienthrin (commonly sold as Onyx), carbaryl (commonly sold as Sevin) or permethrin (commonly sold as Astro) as their active ingredient. There are products containing these active ingredients that are not restricted use so may be applied by homeowners however the specific product purchased must be labeled for bark beetle control."