NTSB Identification: SEA00LA117.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, June 28, 2000 in HEYBURN, ID
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/09/2001
Aircraft: Hughes 369D, registration: N8653F
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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 reported that while flying at about 70-80 feet AGL spraying an insecticide over a residential area, the audible engine out warning sounded and the engine lost power. The pilot turned the helicopter to the right and extended the glide to clear obstructions for the emergency landing in a field. The helicopter landed hard, partially collapsing the landing skids, and the main rotor blades struck and severed the tailboom. Post-accident investigation at the accident site revealed that the fuel gauges were indicating empty and that the fuel level low light did illuminate at that time. The pilot reported that he did not see a light prior to the loss of engine power. The helicopter was recovered and moved to a facility to inspect the fuel system. During the tests, it was found that the fuel-sending unit indicated more fuel on the fuel gauge than was actually on board. The low fuel warning light also did not illuminate every time. The total fuel quantity drained from the fuel tank after the accident was approximately two pints. The pilot reported that the company's fuel truck does not have a metering system and that the fuelers estimate the fuel quantity added by using a timed fuel burst. They also are supposed to verify that the aircraft's fuel gage moves when fuel is added.

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

Fuel exhaustion and inaccurate fuel management. A false indication on the fuel quantity gage, and an erratic low level fuel warning system were factors.

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