Accidents: June 2022

 - June 13, 2022, 1:39 PM

Preliminary Reports

Water-drop Helicopter Destroyed by Post-crash Fire, Garlick Helicopters (Bell) UH-1H, Feb. 14, 2022, 36 km north of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia - The solo pilot was killed and the 1965--vintage helicopter destroyed when it went down in an open paddock after an unsuccessful water drop. The Launceston-based helicopter, flown by its owner, was in its fifth consecutive day of fire-fighting operations using a water bucket suspended from a 140-foot-long line. Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) fire commanders supervising the operation from an AS350 identified a localized hot spot and tasked the UH-1H to address it. The aircraft departed the staging area at 15:10 and filled the bucket just upstream of a small dam. The AS350 crew watched him drop the water but miss the target, which they described as unusual. The UH-1H then made a gradual left turn and tracked away from the target.

The AS350 pilot, suspecting a problem with the older helicopter, made a climbing 360-degree turn to clear the way, then saw it descend into the paddock and hit the ground. He did not hear any radio calls. A witness at the staging area also saw the UH-1H miss its target, descend, and enter a hover before yawing rapidly twice and descending out of sight. The AS350 landed adjacent to the wreckage, where a fuel-fed fire was spreading rapidly. Two other helicopters arrived from the staging area to apply fire suppressant but were unable to save the pilot or his helicopter. Ground scars showed that it had hit the ground tail-first, with subsequent contact by the skids, main rotor blades, and cabin.

The helicopter was originally delivered to the U.S. military, then converted for civilian use in 2007. It was exported to Australia in September 2014 and registered in the restricted category for use in firefighting, external loads, wildlife conservation, agriculture, and forestry. An additional Special Certificate of Airworthiness in the limited category was issued in May 2015 for “adventure” flights. The tail rotor gearbox was replaced in December 2021. A 150-hour inspection was completed in January 2022 and a 25-hour inspection and lubrication was performed the day before the accident. As of Jan. 30, 2022, it had flown 7,746 total hours.

Obscuration Brings Down Avalanche Control Flight, Airbus Helicopters AS350B3, March 16, 2022, 35 nm north of Nelson, British Columbia, Canada - The pilot and two avalanche technicians escaped with minor injuries after their helicopter’s tail rotor made contact with either a tree or the ground. The team was dropping explosive charges about 100 feet below a ridgeline and 20 feet above the ground at an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet when they “encountered an area of reduced visibility,” causing the pilot to lose visual references. The pilot responded to the tailrotor strike by immediately attempting a forced landing. The helicopter hit the hard snowpack and rolled over, causing the main rotor blades to strike and partially sever the tail boom. A minute and a half later the last explosive charge they’d dropped detonated 25 feet away but did not trigger release of the snow pack.

All three occupants were able to extricate themselves, and the technicians recovered the remaining explosive charges from the wreckage. The emergency locator transmitter activated and the Canadian Mission Control Centre notified the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria but the crew had already contacted a nearby ski operator via portable radio, so no search-and-rescue effort was required.

Two Fatalities in Mercy Flight Training Accident, Bell 429, April 26, 2022, Elba, New York - The helicopter crashed about one hour 45 minutes into a training flight, killing the two “highly seasoned” pilots on board: a Mercy Flight EMS pilot and a company instructor from Bell's Texas headquarters. Both were 60 years old. The accident occurred about 1:00 p.m. in a residential neighborhood in upstate New York. Witnesses saw the helicopter and heard a loud boom before they “saw the helicopter falling from the sky.” A small fire was quickly extinguished. The state police reported that it struck power lines as it fell.

The flight originated at the Genessee County Airport in Batavia at 11:15. The aircraft spent an hour in the airport traffic pattern before departing northbound at an altitude of 2,000 feet. The debris field extended some 2,000 feet, and on April 27, an NTSB investigator reported that the tail boom was found 300 feet from from the fuselage, suggesting that it had separated in flight. Despite severe impact damage, investigators hope to recover data from the electronic monitoring and recording systems on board.

Final Reports

Nose Gear Failure Traced to Incorrect Towbar Adapter, Honda Aircraft HA-420, Oct. 7, 2019, Charleston, South Carolina - A towbar adapter lug mistakenly left in the nose gear axle assembly prevented the nose gear from extending for landing, resulting in substantial damage to the fuselage and pressure vessel but no injuries. The NTSB’s final report noted that “The adapter lug was not a Honda Aircraft part, nor was it the OEM-specified lug for the accident airplane…. The clearance between the nose landing gear door and the nose landing gear axle without the… lug inserted measured approximately 11/16-inch.” With the adapter lug inserted, “…approximately 1.5 inches of the adapter lug extend[ed] from the axle assembly,” resulting in “a considerable negative clearance between the fuselage and the adapter lug.”

The accident occurred at the end of an IFR flight from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Executive Airport to Charleston with one pilot and four passengers on board. During the approach, the pilot moved the gear selector down, producing green indications for the mains but a yellow nose gear light and an audible “gear unsafe” warning. The pilot requested a fly-by and the tower controllers advised that the “doors did not look right.” After two unsuccessful attempts to cycle the gear, the pilot performed the emergency extension procedure without effect, then made a normal approach and landing. The airplane slid to a stop on the runway and the occupants deplaned. The FBO that handled the airplane on the ground reported that “they use pin adapters when connecting the nose wheel to the towbar, because the wheel hubs are too small for the universal towbar hookup.”

Distraction Contributed To Spatial Disorientation, Beech 200, Feb. 20, 2020, Coleman, Texas - The pilot of a King Air that crashed in central Texas was likely distracted “from his primary task of monitoring the flight instruments while in IMC” by efforts to reset an open circuit breaker, the NTSB concluded. All three on board were killed when the twin-engine turboprop crashed into an open field before dawn, creating a 570-foot debris path with heavily fragmented wreckage.

The airplane was in the initial climb of an IFR flight from Abilene to Harlingen, Texas, when the pilot reported freezing drizzle and light rime icing between 6,500 and 8,000 feet; then, at 11,600 feet, he reported problems with deicing equipment and requested a return to Abilene Regional Airport. The controller cleared them direct to the airport and issued descents to 11,000 and then 7,000 feet. When asked if there was an emergency, the pilot replied that they “blew a breaker” that would not reset when they entered icing conditions.

The controller issued a descent to 5,000 feet on a heading of 310 degrees and advised to expect the ILS 35R approach. The pilot reported “faulty instruments” and gave his altitude as 4,700 feet. The controller instructed him to maintain 5,000 and the pilot said he was “pulling up;” no further communications were received. The flight’s radar track ended with a decreasing-radius right turn consistent with spatial disorientation. The airplane’s logbooks showed that discrepancies with the prop and surface deice circuit breakers had been addressed in January; however, the heavy impact damage made it impossible to determine which breakers might have opened during the flight.

Loose Kneeboard Causes Undershoot, Cessna 208B, July 17, 2021, Old Sarum Airfield, Wiltshire, United Kingdom - The pilot’s attempt to retrieve a kneeboard from the right footwell while descending through 200 feet on final approach led to a “very hard” touchdown in a field just short of the runway threshold. The nose gear of the skydiving platform (registration “G-OJMP”) collapsed after striking the berm bordering the airfield. The pilot, who was not wearing the shoulder straps of his five-point harness, suffered two small cuts on his chin inflicted by his full-face oxygen mask. The airplane, according to Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Branch, “was damaged beyond economical repair.”

The accident occurred on the fourteenth of 20 planned circuits to drop skydivers to land on the airfield. The pilot shortened his approach to avoid gliders in the vicinity that he could not acquire visually. During the initial descent on downwind, the metal kneeboard he’d used to log flight details slipped out from under his flight bag in the right front seat and fell into the footwell. After initially dismissing its significance, on short final he became concerned that it might interfere with the rudder pedals while landing on the 18-meter-wide (60-foot) runway. At about 200 feet agl, he verified that the Caravan was “on an appropriate flight path” and bent over to pick it up. When he looked up, the airplane was “a lot lower than expected” and he pitched up abruptly.

The cockpit image recorder showed that the Caravan was descending at 2,000 fpm as it passed through 350 feet. The pilot explained that he didn’t secure the kneeboard to his leg for fear it might cause a control restriction, and did not wear his shoulder straps because they inhibited his ability to look over his shoulder at the jumpers, but that he’d “always” secure them in the future.     ζ