Accidents: December 2020

 - December 1, 2020, 8:00 AM

Preliminary Reports

Helicopter Destroyed in Apparent CFIT

Aerospatiale AS 350 B2, August 17, 2020, 45 nm northwest of Stewart, British Columbia, Canada – The helicopter was destroyed and the solo pilot killed when it crashed into a mountainside approximately 1200 meters (three-quarters of a mile) from the drilling site where it was conducting long-line operations.  Although the Transportation Safety Board has not yet published a formal report, their announcement of the investigation characterizes the accident as “controlled flight into or toward terrain.”

After an initial lift, the pilot returned the load to the site and attempted to return to the staging area to avoid approaching weather.  Ground personnel were unable to establish communications with the pilot and launched a search.  They found the wreckage almost entirely consumed by a post-crash fire.

Attempted Takeoff from Closed Runway Damages Metroliner

Fairchild Industries SA226, August 20, 2020, Gunnedah Airport, New South Wales, Australia – The left main landing gear of the twin-engine turboprop collapsed after hitting two holes excavated in the pavement of Runway 29, causing a propeller strike and damage to the left wing.  A NOTAM closing the airport for paving work from 0700 to 1500 had been filed the previous day, and white “X” marks on the pavement indicated that the runway was closed.  However, the pilot indicated that no indications of work in progress or the runway closure were visible from the ramp.

The accident occurred at 1225 Eastern Standard Time.  As the airplane accelerated on its takeoff roll, the pilot saw “something on the runway surface in the distance,” but thought they were patches in the pavement.  After realizing they were holes he attempted to avoid them, but was unable to clear the left main gear.

The number of souls on board was not initially reported, but no injuries resulted.  The ATSB expects to complete its report by the second quarter of 2021.

Four Killed in Attempted Emergency Landing

Piper PA-46-310 JetProp conversion, September 20, 2020, Hilltop Lakes, Texas – The pilot and his three passengers were killed when the airplane crashed short of Runway 15 during an emergency approach to the Hilltop Lakes Airport (0TE4).  While in cruise flight at FL 190, the pilot declared an emergency with air traffic control, reporting that the airplane had lost engine power.  He requested a diversion to 0TE4, about five miles south of his current position, and began to descend.  Archived ADS-B data show that the airplane flew directly to the airport, then circled until it descended below the floor of ADS-B reception about three miles northeast of the field.  Commercial flight track data was received up to the time it turned to a final approach segment about one mile north of the threshold at an altitude of 1,250 feet and a groundspeed of 169 knots on a 145-degree heading,

Witnesses about a quarter mile south of the arrival end “reported seeing what they described as the airplane taking off, before noticing the propeller was not turning.”  It banked left just before the nose dropped, striking the ground in a near-vertical attitude.  The NTSB’s preliminary report notes that a Pratt and Whitney PT6A had been installed under the provisions of a Supplementary Type Certificate, but does not indicate when that conversion was performed.

Final Reports

LTE Blamed for N.Z. Helicopter Ditching

MBB BK-117 A-3, May 2, 2017, Porirua Harbour, New Zealand – Mechanical and metallurgic analysis ruled out any physical failure of the tail rotor, and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission attributed the sudden loss of control during a low-speed external-load flight to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE), described in their report as “unanticipated right yaw.”   The helicopter sustained damage to the right skid and lower right fuselage, tail boom, vertical stabilizer, and one main transmission mount when it crashed into shallow water in Porirua Harbour.  The pilot was submerged but was able to follow his helicopter underwater egress training and escaped with minor injuries.

The accident occurred on the first of three planned flights to transport 11-meter (36-foot) hardwood utility poles and install them in holes prepared on the opposite shore.  After picking up the pole, the pilot climbed to 230 feet and crossed the channel on a southwesterly heading at a GPS-measured groundspeed that peaked at 38 knots.  As the pilot began slowing the helicopter while talking to the installation crew over a handheld radio, the ship experienced “a significant medium-frequency vibration … which amplified with pronounced oscillation, followed by a sudden rotation of the helicopter to the right.”  The pilot responded by lowering collective, which slowed the rotation but increased the descent rate more than he’d anticipated.  The company’s chief pilot saw the helicopter flare nose-up abruptly “like a quick stop” followed by a cracking noise that may have been the utility pole striking the water.  When the pilot raised collective to arrest the descent, the helicopter rolled right, pitched nose down, and hit the water.

The accident occurred with the aircraft flying at low forward airspeed in a right quartering tailwind of 8 knots gusting to 20, conditions conducive to LTE.  In addition, the TAIC concluded that the pilot’s communications with the ground crew distracted attention from maintaining control of the aircraft.  The report also identified a number of administrative and operational issues in the operator’s management practices, including failure to disclose the pilot’s pharmaceutical treatment for a potentially relevant medical condition and multiple recordkeeping irregularities, including discrepancies in documenting the airworthiness of an aircraft imported without a conformity certificate from its country of origin.