NTSB Identification: MIA97LA103.
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Accident occurred Friday, March 28, 1997 in CULLMAN, AL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/1998
Aircraft: Hughes TH-55, registration: N818D
Injuries: 2 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The flight instructor and student pilot remained in closed traffic in order to perform practice maneuvers and emergency procedure training to include autorotations. Witnesses saw the helicopter take off to the west and turn immediately to the right, climb to an altitude of 30 feet above ground level (AGL), and attain an estimated forward airspeed of 20 to 30 knots. The helicopter was then observed in a descent and disappear out of view before the witnesses heard the sound of impact with the ground. Several of the witnesses stated that just prior to impact they heard what sounded like the engine overspeed, and then cut off. The helicopter landed near a telephone pole and support lines. There was no evidence found to indicate that the helicopter contacted the pole or the lines. According to the first people to arrive at the crash site, the student pilot did not know what had happened. The CFI said, 'we had been flying for about an hour. We'd finished our training and were heading back with...[the student] on the controls, when the engine quit. I said I've got it and took the controls, but we were too low, with no time to recover, and crashed.' Examination of the wreckage revealed that the main and tail rotor RPM was low at impact,' because the rotor blades showed little damage. In addition, the engine and airframe examinations revealed no discrepancies. Several attempts were made to talk to the CFI at the hospital to get his factual account of the accident, but all attempts to interview him were unsuccessful. The NTSB Form 6120.1/2, was returned without a statement from the CFI.

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

a loss of engine power for undetermined reasons and the pilot-in-command's failure to maintain control of the helicopter. Factors in this accident were: an improper autorotation as a result of improper collective use and resulting failure to maintain main rotor rpm.

Full narrative available

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