Sunday, November 29, 2020

Fuel Related: Robinson R44 Raven, N771GB; accident occurred July 27, 2020 in Hebron, Thayer County, Nebraska

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Lincoln, Nebraska

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

RotorWings Aviation LLC 

Location: Hebron, Nebraska 
Accident Number: CEN20CA316
Date & Time: July 27, 2020, 15:30 Local
Registration: N771GB
Aircraft: Robinson R44 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel related 
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural


The pilot reported that during the initial climb out for the aerial application flight, he noticed a power loss and initiated an autorotation into a cornfield. During the landing, the fuselage, tail rotor and horizontal/vertical stabilizers were substantially damaged. Fuel drained from the helicopter's gascolator during recovery contained a large quantity of water. Fuel storage for the spray operation consisted of a primary (filtered) and a secondary (unfiltered) storage tank. When fuel was needed from the secondary storage tank, it would be transferred to the primary storage tank to ensure filtering.

On the evening prior to the accident, over 4 inches of rainfall occurred at the airport. The operator thought a fuel cap may have been left off the secondary storage tank inadvertently, which may have allowed water to enter the tank. On the day of the accident, due to a pump failure in the primary storage tank, fuel was drawn directly from the secondary (unfiltered) storage tank. The operator stated that rushing contributed to loading unfiltered fuel into the helicopter. The pilot did not sump the helicopter's fuel tanks as required by the flight manual during preflight and/or after refueling, which would have identified the water contamination.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A loss of engine power due to water contamination in the fuel system. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight to sump the fuel tanks prior to flight. 


Aircraft Fuel - Fluid management
Personnel issues Preflight inspection - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Initial climb Fuel related (Defining event)
Autorotation Hard landing

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial 
Age: 37,Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter 
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter 
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: July 26, 2020
Flight Time: 2880 hours (Total, all aircraft), 450 hours (Total, this make and model), 2840 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 60 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 35 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 7 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson 
Registration: N771GB
Model/Series: R44 Undesignated
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2000 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 0778
Landing Gear Type: N/A; Skid 
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: March 12, 2020 Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2401 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 1465 Hrs at time of accident 
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: O-540 SERIES
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 225 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KHJH,1473 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 15:35 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 214°
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2400 ft AGL 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 9 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 60° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / Light
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 22°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Hebron, NE (HJH)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Hebron, NE (HJH)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 15:30 Local
Type of Airspace: Class E

Airport Information

Airport: Hebron Muni HJH 
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 1468 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Vegetation
Runway Used:
IFR  Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 40.151943,-97.584442(est)

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