NTSB Identification: ANC02TA035.
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Accident occurred Thursday, May 16, 2002 in CANTWELL, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/06/2002
Aircraft: Robinson R-44, registration: N344AK
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

The commercial certificated helicopter pilot was conducting a VFR public use government flight to track caribou. The pilot was maneuvering a helicopter in an attempt to move radio-collared caribou out of an area of trees. Prior to beginning the maneuvering, the pilot said he conducted an out-of-ground-effect hover power check, and was satisfied with the helicopter's available power. He then began an out-of-ground-effect hover near several caribou. The pilot said that when he raised the collective control to move from his hover position, the low rotor annunciator sounded. He said he did not have sufficient power available to climb away from his position, and the helicopter began to settle toward the ground. One of the helicopter landing gear skids settled into low bushes, and the pilot was able to regain sufficient rotor RPM to move to a nearby landing area. After landing, the pilot found that one of the main rotor blades had a tear in the bottom surface of the blade surface. The other main rotor blade had several dents. The pilot determined the helicopter was not flyable. He said he did not feel any rotor contact with the trees.

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

A failure of the pilot-in-command to maintain adequate main rotor rpm during an out-of-ground-effect hover.

Full narrative available

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