NTSB Identification: LAX97FA107.
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Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Friday, February 21, 1997 in MILOLII, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/31/1998
Aircraft: Hughes 369D, registration: N505RM
Injuries: 3 Serious,1 Minor.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The purpose of the flight was to transport state employees to a nearby work site. The pilot took off, climbed to about 400 feet msl, and accelerated to 90 knots. The first minute of flight was routine, and the pilot did not indicate he was experiencing any malfunctions. Suddenly, a loud bang was heard which was followed by a slight shudder in the tail rotor pedals. A passenger reported observing pieces of the tail rotor blades flying past the left side of the helicopter. The pilot applied pressure to the tail rotor pedals, but no response was evident. The pilot autorotated to a landing on rough terrain covered with vegetation. The helicopter was recovered and examined. No evidence of mechanical problems was found. The tail rotor blade assembly was not located. Prior to the flight, the helicopter's doors had been removed. Also, 2 days earlier, company maintenance personnel had replaced one of the two tail rotor pitch change links due to excessive wear in its rod end bearing.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

failure of the tail rotor for undetermined reason(s), resulting in tail rotor imbalance, separation of the tail rotor, and an autorotative landing on rough terrain with high vegetation. The lack of suitable terrain for a forced landing was a related factor.

Full narrative available

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