Saturday, January 08, 2022

Tailstrike: Hughes 500D (369D), N8612F; accident occurred January 09, 2021 in Winthrop, Okanogan County, Washington

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Spokane, Washington

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Winthrop, Washington 
Accident Number: WPR21LA084
Date and Time: January 9, 2021, 12:30 Local 
Registration: N8612F
Aircraft: Hughes 369D
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Tailstrike 
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Positioning


The pilot reported that, while landing in a snow-covered, unimproved landing zone, the helicopter drifted rearward, the tail rotor struck a snowbank, and the helicopter began to spin to the right. The pilot reduced the throttle setting to off and applied left pedal to reduce the spin, but the helicopter drifted to the right and the right skid impacted snow. The helicopter subsequently rolled over and impacted terrain. The tailboom and the main and tail rotor drive systems were substantially damaged. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to adequately monitor the environment which resulted in a collision with a snowbank and subsequent loss of control.


Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot
Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Environmental issues Sloped/uneven terrain - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing-flare/touchdown Tailstrike (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial  
Age: 60, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Glider; Helicopter 
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane 
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 2 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 17, 2020
Occupational Pilot: Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: October 29, 2020
Flight Time: 8125 hours (Total, all aircraft), 575 hours (Total, this make and model), 8025 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 46 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 21 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Passenger Information

Age: Male
Airplane Rating(s): 
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s):
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s):
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s):
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification:
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Hughes 
Registration: N8612F
Model/Series: 369D 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 570142D
Landing Gear Type: None; High skid
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: January 8, 2021 100 hour 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3000 lbs 
Time Since Last Inspection: 1.9 Hrs 
Engines: 1 Turbo shaft
Airframe Total Time: 21451.2 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: ALLISON
ELT: C126 installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: 250-C20R
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 250 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft external load (133), Commuter air carrier (135), Agricultural aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: S52 
Distance from Accident Site: 3.1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 10:00 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 150°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Unknown / 3000 ft AGL
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3000 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.32 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 2.2°C / -6.7°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Darrington, WA (1S2)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Winthrop, WA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 11:15 Local
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Methow Valley State S52
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 1706 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Snow
Runway Used:
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Full stop; Straight-in

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 48.47318,-120.1782(est)

Preventing Similar Accidents

Manage Risk: Good Decision-making and Risk Management Practices are Critical

Although few pilots knowingly accept severe risks, accidents can also result when several risks of marginal severity are not identified or are ineffectively managed by the pilot and compound into a dangerous situation. Accidents also result when the pilot does not accurately perceive situations that involve high levels of risk. Ineffective risk management or poor aeronautical decision-making can be associated with almost any type of fatal general aviation accident.

By identifying personal attitudes that are hazardous to safe flying, applying behavior modification techniques, recognizing and coping with stress, and effectively using all resources, pilots can substantially improve the safety of each flight. Remember that effective risk management takes practice. It is a decision-making process by which pilots can systematically identify hazards, assess the degree of risk, and determine the best course of action. Pilots should plan ahead with flight diversion or cancellation alternatives and not be afraid to change their plans; it can sometimes be the difference between arriving safely late or not arriving at all.

See for additional resources.

The NTSB presents this information to prevent recurrence of similar accidents. Note that this should not be considered guidance from the regulator, nor does this supersede existing FAA Regulations (FARs). 

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