Accidents: September 2022

 - September 1, 2022, 8:34 AM

Preliminary Reports

Trainee Pilot Killed in Skydiving Accident - Cessna 208B, June 3, 2022, Oceanside, California

A skydiving jump pilot in training was killed and the trainer seriously injured after a partial loss of engine power left the Caravan unable to return to the runway. The accident occurred on the seventh flight of the day. Each lasted about 17 minutes with 15 minutes on the ground in between, and the airplane’s engine was kept running throughout.

The accident flight took off at 13:31 local time, climbing over the airport to an ADS-B-measured altitude of 11,575 feet. After the skydivers jumped, the Caravan began a steep, turning descent toward the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, turned final at an altitude of 2,400 feet 2.6 nm from the threshold of Runway 25, then made a right 360-degree turn to lose altitude. At 400 feet agl the trainer tried to increase power, but the engine did not respond. He turned towards an open dirt field but noticed a berm in the path, which he turned right to avoid. However, the airplane struck a berm 1,615 feet east of the threshold.

Fluid “consistent in appearance and odor with jet-A fuel” was recovered from the right wing tank, header tank, fuel filter, and fuel lines; the left wing tank’s connection to the fuselage had separated. Preliminary findings from the engine teardown suggested it was running at low power at the moment of impact.

Six Perish in Vintage Huey - Bell UH-1H, June 22, 2022, near Amherstdale, West Virginia

The pilot and all five passengers were killed when the Vietnam-era helicopter crashed about 3.5 nm east of the Logan County, West Virginia Airport (6L4). The flight was conducted as part of the Seventh Annual Huey Reunion at 6L4 at which attendees were offered the opportunity to fly in one of the retired military helicopters or even take the controls backed up by the ship’s regular pilot. There were no known witnesses to the accident, which happened at about 16:45 local time on the last scheduled flight of the day.

The wreckage was found partially inverted on its right side on a road at the base of a steep rock face. Most of the cockpit and cabin along with the engine gearbox had been consumed by a post-crash fire. Two of a group of three utility cables 180 feet above the road were “fractured consistent with tensile overload and were displaced toward the main wreckage,” which was located 542 feet past the point where the cables crossed the road. Pieces of plastic window, the aft cap of the left skid, a section of one tail rotor blade, and green paint transfer marks were found on a ledge about 40 feet above the pavement.

Helicopter Downed After Interrupted Maintenance - Bell 407GXP, June 4, 2022, Fairfield, New Jersey

The helicopter lost yaw control, landed hard, and rolled onto its side, seriously injuring the pilot. En route from Caldwell, New Jersey to John F. Kennedy International, the pilot requested a return to Caldwell but said he did not require assistance. Surveillance footage showed it pass 150 feet above the threshold of Runway 28 at 33 knots, then slow, yaw to the right, and begin descending while rotating around the main rotor mast.

Seconds into the descent the right yaw stopped; the helicopter then rotated left until ground contact.

Subsequent examination found that the tail rotor crosshead drive plate was not bolted to the tail rotor crosshead; no fragments of the attachment hardware were present, and the threads were undamaged. The tail rotor had been reinstalled the day before by the operator’s director of maintenance following replacement of four “feathering bearings,” a task interrupted by calls to consult on two other aircraft repairs.

Final Reports

Collision Traced to Communications Lapse - Cessna 525, Nov. 26, 2018, Fortaleza de Santa Terezhina Farm, Jequitai, Brazil

A last-minute change in plans and a balky motor resulted in an agricultural pivot 7 meters (23 feet) high being left under the final approach course to Runway 20 of the farm’s private airstrip. All four occupants of the Citation were killed after its left main gear struck the pivot 126 meters from the threshold. The jet struck the ground short of the threshold before climbing out in an apparent attempt to go around, then entered a descending left turn and crashed off the side of the runway. Fire consumed most of the fuselage, including the cockpit and passenger cabin.

The three passengers included the company’s owner and his wife, who’d initially planned to travel by car but decided the night before to fly instead. The pilot ordinarily notified farm staff prior to departure, but in this case did not; they became aware of the incoming jet only a few minutes before its arrival.

The staff also reported that the pivot was normally parked along the access road to the farm’s center, away from the final approach course, but had not been repositioned due to mechanical problems with one of the engines used to move the structure. Witnesses reported that the airplane entered a normal traffic pattern, beginning its descent on the base leg, but descended faster than usual and was low on final approach.

Unsecured Cowlings Damage Empennage - Cessna 560, Feb. 12, 2020, Aledo, Texas

Both the upper and lower cowlings of the right engine separated shortly after takeoff, striking the right horizontal stabilizer and slicing through the top of the fuselage just forward of the vertical stabilizer. Hearing “a loud crashing noise” and then “turbulent air sound” as the corporate jet climbed through FL225, the airline transport pilot disconnected the autopilot, advised air traffic control, and slowed the airplane to 170 knots while descending to 11,000 feet. Control, flap, and landing gear checks all seemed normal except that the noise grew louder with rudder movement, leading the pilot to suspect a problem with the empennage. He then diverted to Mineral Wells, Texas, the nearest airport with a paved runway longer than 5,000 feet, and made an uneventful landing.

Postflight inspection found pieces of the cowlings wrapped among the right horizontal stabilizer. The reason for the separation could not be determined. NTSB investigators found the stud, snap ring, and grommet missing from the left forward corner of the upper cowling and the snap rings and grommets missing from two nearby locations, but no evidence of damage or wear that might have led to their departure. They concluded that “the reasons…could not be determined based on the available evidence.”

Helicopter Destroyed by Severe Turbulence - Bell 212HP, March 5, 2021, Bowen Island, British Columbia, Canada

An encounter with severe turbulence that rolled the helicopter “inverted, or close to inverted,” triggered a cascading series of malfunctions that ultimately rendered the aircraft uncontrollable, unloading the main rotor and causing loss of hydraulic power, uncommanded shutdown of the number two engine, and loss of tail rotor thrust after the main rotor blades severed the tail rotor driveshaft forward of the intermediate gearbox. The pilots successfully extricated themselves from the wreckage after the helicopter spun into tree tops on Bowen Island and came to rest inverted on a rocky ledge about 270 feet above sea level.

The accident occurred en route from the company’s base at the Sechelt Aerodrome to a staging area 21 nm east for long-line operations to install 230-kV transmission lines. Vancouver International Airport forecast southeasterly winds at 18 knots with gusts to 28 from 0700 to 1100, subsequently diminishing to 15 knots. After assessing conditions, the pilot-in-command decided to go in the expectation of better weather later in the day. They lifted off about 9:35 a.m., anticipating a bumpy flight, flying east between 2,300 and 2,600 feet. Noticing “cat’s paw” waves indicative of downdrafts on Collingwood Channel, they slowed the helicopter to 75 knots indicated airspeed.

Two nm on the downwind side of Bowen Island, the helicopter passed through an area of moderate turbulence, then encountered severe turbulence that pitched the helicopter sharply nose-down and rolled it hard to the right, momentarily pulling the cyclic control from the second pilot’s hand. The helicopter was forced down from 2,430 to 1,040 feet at a rate of 8,220 fpm before maximum aft cyclic re-established a measure of control. Several instruments broke loose from the instrument panel, and a caution light for insufficient hydraulic pressure illuminated. The pilots found the cyclic slow to respond and the anti-torque pedals “very difficult to move.” They identified a field on the northwest corner of Bowen Island as an emergency landing site, but switched to a closer field when the No. 2 engine-out light illuminated descending through 900 feet.

Yaw control was lost as they decelerated for landing, and the helicopter began spinning to the right. The second pilot reduced both throttles to idle to slow the rotation and raised collective to cushion the descent as the helicopter struck the treetops. Fuel lines under the floor began leaking after the fuselage came to rest, but the pilots escaped and were transported to a hospital by local residents. Use of four-point harnesses and flight helmets was credited with minimizing their injuries.

The Transportation Safety Board subsequently found that the upset had unloaded the main rotor into a low-G condition that caused mast bumping that damaged but did not sever the main rotor mast and allowed the blades to strike the tail boom. The roll beyond 90 degrees probably allowed air to enter the hydraulic lines, which were supplied by two unpressurized reservoirs located in the upper deck of the fuselage. While the cause of the engine shutdown was not definitively determined, the computer logic’s response to the unloaded main rotor’s overspeed was considered a likely reason.