Saturday, January 30, 2021

Aerospatiale SA-342J Gazelle, N342J: Accident occurred June 21, 2020 at the Minden-Tahoe Airport (KMEV), Douglas County, Nevada

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 Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada
Airbus Helicopters; Grand Prairie, Texas
Safran Engines; Grand Prairie, Texas
Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety Aerospace; le Bourget

Location: Minden, NV 
Accident Number: WPR20LA189
Date & Time: June 21, 2020, 13:30 Local 
Registration: N342J
Aircraft: Aerospatiale SA342J 
Injuries: 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On June 21, 2020, about 1330 Pacific daylight time, an Aerospatiale SA-324J helicopter, N342J, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident at the Minden-Tahoe Airport (MEV), Minden, Nevada. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

According to the pilot, he had filled the helicopter with fuel and operated the helicopter for about 1 hour 15 minutes. During the flight the pilot noticed the engine exhaust gas temperature at about 50° higher than usual. During the approach, on the return flight to the airport, he descended to about 50 ft above ground level (agl) and continued to his intended touchdown point. While over a level area, at about 25 ft agl and at 10 to 15 knots indicated airspeed, he lowered the collective to initiate the landing. Immediately after lowering the collective, the engine lost all power. The pilot entered a hovering autorotation and applied collective pitch to cushion the landing. The helicopter struck the ground hard and a postcrash fire ensued. The occupants egressed the helicopter unassisted.

A witness stated that he was at the airfield outside of his hangar. He noticed the helicopter depart the airport. About two hours later, he heard the helicopter approaching the airport and watched it until it was about 60 ft agl approaching to land. The witness walked inside his hangar and from inside, he heard three or four pops in rapid succession followed by a louder, deeper sound. He then heard the helicopter hit the ground with a loud impact. He went to the door to observe the helicopter on fire. He then ran to the helicopter to render aid to the two occupants exiting the helicopter.

The helicopter came to rest on the airport, about one quarter mile northwest of the approach end of runway 34, at an elevation of about 4700 ft above mean sea level (msl). All major components were located in an area of about 50 x 50 square feet. A postimpact fire consumed the fuselage and the tail boom. The engine, transmission, main rotor blades and the fenestron anti-torque system were recovered to a secure facility for further examination 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Aerospatiale
Registration: N342J
Model/Series: SA342J 1708 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMEV,4724 ft msl 
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site: 
Temperature/Dew Point: 32°C /-4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 8 knots / , 260°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches 
Hg Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Carson City, NV (CXP)
Destination: Minden, NV (MEV)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 38.996944,-119.754997

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