NTSB Identification: LAX93LA323.
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Accident occurred Sunday, August 15, 1993 in CHICO, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/26/1994
Aircraft: HUGHES 369D, registration: N8606F
Injuries: 1 Minor,1 Uninjured.

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

A sheriff's department rents this particular helicopter on an as needed basis for surveillance and rescue missions. All doors are removed for the missions. The pilot said that he had just achieved a cruise altitude of 500 feet AGL when he heard a loud bang and felt a severe vibration throughout the airframe. The pilot stated that he entered a 180 degree autorotation to a clear area in an almond orchard with power. During the landing flare, the helicopter began to spin to the right when the pilot applied collective. He said that he immediately rolled off the power; the helicopter landed hard and rolled over. A ground witness reported that when the helicopter was nearly overhead he saw a cloth like object come out of the helicopter and fly back toward the tail. The helicopter then descended rapidly as it turned 180 degrees until it disappeared behind the trees. Prior to takeoff, the observer had placed a nomex flight suit under some bags tied down in the rear compartment. Subsequent examination of the helicopter and the accident site revealed that the flight suit was unaccounted for and could not be located. Several days after the accident, a search party located a shredded nomex flight suit in the orchard not far from the accident site and back along the direction of the helicopter's flight path.

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

the observer's failure to properly secure stowed items in the rear compartment prior to takeoff and the resultant foreign object damage to the tail rotor system which precluded the pilot from maintaining directional control.

Full narrative available

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