NTSB Identification: LAX01FA277.
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Tuesday, August 14, 2001 in Fountain Hills, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/05/2004
Aircraft: MD HELICOPTERS, INC. 600N, registration: N70457
Injuries: 3 Minor,1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

A staff pilot for the manufacturer was providing a sales demonstration flight to a potential customer's pilot when yaw control of the helicopter was lost, it entered a spin, collided with the ground, and rolled over. During the flight the customer's typical aerial application pest control flight profile was to be flown. The customer pilot flew Bell 206's currently in the mission and had no experience in the NOTAR anti-torque system. The maneuver was a simulated aerial application pass followed by a turn around. The manufacturer's pilot said the maneuver was very docile and consisted of a pass down a creek bed at 60 knots and 50 feet. The customer pilot initiated a gentle cyclic pull-up to a 10- to 15-degree nose up attitude while entering a right turn as the helicopter decelerated. At the 90 degree point in the turn, the helicopter was at 40 to 50 knots with a 30-degree or less bank angle to the right. As the nose came around in the turn, the nose tucked down to about 20 degrees below the horizon. The manufacturer's pilot took over the controls and added near full aft cyclic to level the nose; at this point, he received a low rotor warning horn (indicating a rotor droop at 95 percent or lower). Coincident with the low rotor warning, the helicopter began a right yaw rate. He added full left pedal, but the yaw rate continued at what he described as a "slow pedal turn rate," eventually completing 4 to 6 complete revolutions. At this point the helicopter began descending and he added collective. He immediately got a "power" audio warning, indicating that he was exceeding the upper power limit of the engine. The right yaw rate also increased with collective input. The pilot then modulated the collective between the low rotor warning and the excessive power warning in an attempt to both control the yaw and stop the descent. As he lowered the collective and the rotor speed began to build, the yaw would slow, but the helicopter then began descending faster. As he added collective to slow the descent, the yaw rate would increase. As the helicopter neared the ground, the yaw finally stopped; however, the helicopter was translating sideways toward a berm. The helicopter touched down on the right skid against the berm and it rolled over. The manufacturer's pilot said his hands were following on the controls as the customer pilot flew and he did not perceive any unusual control inputs. He further stated that his feet were about 1 inch from the anti-torque pedals and he did not feel any inputs from the customer pilot on the pedals. Based on his extensive flight test experience in this helicopter, the manufacturer's pilot believes that the aft cyclic input to correct the nose down pitching moment induced a rotor droop, and that the droop was the initiating event in the yaw rate onset. He does not know how low the rotor speed went, but the warning is triggered at 95 percent Nr. The lower limit of the Nr green arc is at 90 percent. The NOTAR anti-torque control system uses air from a pedal controlled jet thruster nozzle on the end of the tail boom to provide anti-torque control. Additional yaw control is provided by vertical stabilizers, which are largely effective only above 20 to 30 knots. Air is supplied to the thruster by a fan driven by a power takeoff shaft from the main transmission. There is a direct relationship between the speed of the main rotor and the speed of the fan. The pilot said he believes that the initial yaw onset was because the rotor drooped low enough to slow the fan below the speed which could supply the necessary air volume to the thruster to control the yaw and they were not fast enough for the vertical stabilizers to have any effect. After the occupants had extricated themselves from the wreckage, the customer pilot asked the pilot what had happened. He replied to them that he didn't know what happened and added, "Maybe we should have turned to the left instead." The helicopter's FAA approved Rotorcraft Flight Manual (RFM) contains several warnings about low speed maneuvering. Under the heading "Unanticipated Right Yaw", the RFM section notes that an unanticipated right yaw can occur when operating at low altitude and airspeeds below 60 knots when a pilot's attention is distracted by events outside the helicopter and sufficient control inputs are not made to adjust for changing aerodynamic conditions. The paragraph states, "If no directional or cyclic control inputs are made, a nose down pitch and a right roll may follow the right yaw." The section notes that this is most likely to occur at speeds below 60 knots in uncoordinated right turns, while flying out of trim with too much right pedal, or right turns to a downwind condition. Examination of the helicopter revealed no evidence of a preimpact malfunction or failure of the control system.

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

the manufacturer's pilot's failure to maintain yaw control and main rotor speed while recovering from an unusual attitude induced by the customer pilot's inadequate control inputs while maneuvering at low altitude. The manufacturer's pilot's inadequate supervision of the flight is also causal. A factor in the accident was the customer pilot's lack a familiarity with the NOTAR yaw control system.

Full narrative available

Index for Aug2001 | Index of months