NTSB Identification: FTW01LA124.
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Accident occurred Friday, May 18, 2001 in Raymondville, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/09/2001
Aircraft: Robinson R22, registration: N7087X
Injuries: 2 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 helicopter had been in flight for approximately 5 minutes when the main rotor rpm began to decrease. The "clutch light" illuminated and the "low rotor horn sounded." The pilot initiated an autorotation to an open field; however, he did "not have enough altitude" to clear some trees. The helicopter contacted the trees and impacted the ground "hard." The main rotor drive belts were found separated from the drive wheels. An examination of the helicopter by an aircraft mechanic and an FAA inspector revealed that the drive belts were "frayed and ripped." No anomalies were noted with the rest of the drive system. The helicopter was issued an airworthiness certificate on May 27, 1998. Review of the helicopter's maintenance records revealed that it had undergone its last annual inspection on February 10, 2001, at an aircraft total time of 409.2 hours. There was no record of the drive belts being replaced during the life of the helicopter. According to the helicopter manufacturer, the drive belts are to be changed on condition, and there is no life limit on the belts; however, the belts usually get replaced during the helicopter's 2,200-hour overhaul. At the time of the accident, the helicopter had accumulated a total of 488 hours.

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

the failure of the main rotor drive belts while maneuvering which resulted in a loss of main rotor drive. A contributing factor was the lack of suitable terrain for the forced landing.

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