NTSB Identification: LAX01LA157
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, April 23, 2001 in Willcox, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/30/2003
Aircraft: Bell 206-L3, registration: N215M
Injuries: 3 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 single engine helicopter impacted trees and terrain during a forced landing following a reported loss of engine power. According to the crew's statements, during the positioning flight back to their hospital base one of the flight nurses spotted a herd of antelope and pointed them out to the pilot. The pilot turned toward the herd. As he slowed down and maneuvered the helicopter to view the animals he detected the engine out audio warning and corresponding engine out warning light. The pilot noticed the rotor rpm dropping and he looked at the engine turbine outlet temperature gauge to verify that the engine had lost power. He added that he could no longer hear the engine. The pilot lowered the collective at 500 feet agl, and entered an autorotation. The pilot noticed the rotor rpm was in the low 90's at the time of autorotation entry. The pilot selected a landing area and informed the cabin crew that this was for real and to brace themselves. As the helicopter decelerated, the pilot rolled the throttle to the off position. When the pilot realized that he was going to impact a tree, he pulled up on collective to cushion the landing. The helicopter impacted the tree, then the ground, and came to rest upright in flat desert terrain covered with scrub brush. Photographs taken at the accident site revealed open areas void of trees surrounding the landing spot. The helicopter was examined and nothing was noted that would have precluded normal operation. A post-accident test run of the engine revealed no anomalies during repeated accelerations and decelerations. The engine's measured power output exceeded new engine specifications. The engine was not equipped with an auto reignition system.

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

A loss of engine power due to the likely unporting of the fuel tank pickups as the helicopter was maneuvered to look at animals on the ground. Also causal was the pilot's misjudged touchdown point during an autorotational approach, which resulted in the in-flight impact with a tree.

Full narrative available

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