Monday, March 28, 2022

Robinson R44 Astro, N288L: Accident occurred March 26, 2022 in Myrtle Beach, Horry County, South Carolina

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; Columbia, South Carolina

Executive Helicopters Inc


Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 
Accident Number: ERA22LA168
Date and Time: March 26, 2022, 17:15 Local 
Registration: N288L
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R44 
Injuries: 4 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Other work use

On March 26, 2022, at 1715 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N288L, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The pilot and three passengers were not injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 sightseeing flight.

The pilot reported that he had been flying tours all day on the day of the accident, about 40 flights total; all but two were in another company helicopter. The accident helicopter had also been flown about 40 flights on the day of the accident, by another company pilot. After a shift change, the accident pilot performed a preflight inspection on the accident helicopter, and then took a break due to the wind conditions. After the break, he completed one flight in the accident helicopter, which was normal. On the accident flight, shortly after takeoff as the helicopter passed over a wooded area near the airport, the helicopter began vibrating. He described the vibration as “very violent, like a brick in a [clothes] dryer, but three times more violent.” The vibration seemed to come from “behind him,” it shook the airframe in all directions, and did not seem to be isolated to any one of the helicopter’s controls. He noted that the helicopter was no longer climbing. The pilot subsequently entered an autorotation and confirmed a full split of the engine/rotor tachometer needles. The vibration continued throughout the autorotation all the way to the ground. Upon landing in a business parking lot, the helicopter rolled over onto its left side. The pilot reported that there was no unusual resistance, binding, or other issues with the flight controls.

Examination of the helicopter at the accident scene by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that the helicopter sustained substantial damage to tail boom and the left side of the fuselage. The tail boom was fracture separated about 3 ft forward of the tail rotor gearbox. The tail rotor blades remained intact and attached to the gearbox with one blade bent about 8 inches from the tip. The tail rotor gearbox rotated smoothly, the chip detector was absent of debris, and the drive shaft and controls remained attached and intact aft and forward of the tail boom fracture. The tail rotor drive flex couplings were undamaged. The main rotor blades were bent slightly but mostly undamaged, with no evidence of delamination, and the blade weights and tip caps remained attached. The main gearbox was rotated by hand with slight binding, and its mounts appeared undamaged. The main gearbox chip detector was absent of debris. The main rotor blade pitch change links were fractured; the ends remained attached to their respective attach points. The upper and lower main drive sheaves and belts appeared undamaged.

No anomalies were noted with the engine or its accessories. Fuel samples taken from the main and auxiliary fuel tanks were unremarkable. The engine was test run successfully, with a “slight” vibration noted.

The helicopter was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: ROBINSON HELICOPTER 
Registration: N288L
Model/Series: R44
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built:
Operator: 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand air taxi (135)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: MYR,25 ft msl
Observation Time: 16:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C /-4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 21 knots / 30 knots, 290°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.67 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Myrtle Beach, SC 
Destination: Myrtle Beach, SC

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 3 None 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.675174,-78.913485 

Rotorcraft attempted to land at helipad and landed in a parking lot and rolled into bushes. 

Date: 26-MAR-22
Time: 21:15:00Z
Regis#: N288L
Aircraft Make: ROBINSON
Aircraft Model: R44
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: SIGHT SEEING
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
Operation: 135
Aircraft Operator: EXECUTIVE HELIJETS
City: MYRTLE BEACH
State: SOUTH CAROLINA

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