NTSB Identification: DEN00LA113.
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Accident occurred Saturday, June 17, 2000 in RUIDOSO, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/18/2001
Aircraft: Enstrom 280CB, registration: N440RB
Injuries: 3 Minor.
NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The pilot was giving helicopter sightseeing rides to people at a local fair. His ground support partner was planning to intermittently fuel the aircraft's right saddle tank with 5 gallon cans to maintain a 25% fuel load. The two 21 gallon (20 gallons usable) fuel tanks do have a 3/8 inch in diameter interconnecting line, but it is recommended that refueling be done through the fueling caps in each tank. The interconnecting line has a 'T' connector in it with a 3/8 inch in diameter main fuel line leading to the engine. If the helicopter were refueled on one side while the engine was running, it would be possible (at low fuel levels) for the other fuel tank to cavitate. The fuel gauge indication is derived from a single fuel level float device that is located in the right fuel tank. Neither the pilot nor his ground support partner could remember how much flight time had been flown or how much fuel had been put in the aircraft. The pilot said that during his 5th flight of the day, the engine power deteriorated and he performed an autorotation. During the landing sequence, the main rotor blades cut off the tail boom and slapped the ground, and the left skid supports were broken. A postaccident engine test run identified no abnormalities with the engine. The pilot registered the helicopter on May 24, 2000, and had accumulated approximately 25 to 27 hours in make and model.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: the loss of engine power as a result of fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate preflight planning. A contributing factor was the pilot's lack of experience in the model of helicopter. Full narrative available
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