NTSB Identification: CHI02FA174.
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Accident occurred Friday, June 21, 2002 in Norfolk, NE
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/02/2004
Aircraft: Eurocopter France AS-350-B2, registration: N852HW
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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.

The helicopter impacted the terrain following a loss of control. Shortly after departing the hospital on a medivac flight, the pilot requested that company dispatch have the company mechanic meet him at a nearby airport because he was experiencing "binding in the right pedal." An airport employee stated that just prior to the accident, she saw the helicopter hovering over the ramp and thought it was going to land. Four other witnesses reported seeing the helicopter climbing and thought it was taking off. Witnesses also reported seeing the helicopter spinning (directions vary) prior to it descending to impact. One witness reported the nose of the helicopter was stationary on an east heading and the tail of the helicopter was swinging back and forth. He stated the helicopter then veered to the left and he lost sight of it when he traveled behind some buildings. Another witness reported seeing the helicopter rocking nose to tail and going in a circle, but not spinning, prior to impact. Inspection of the helicopter revealed one of the scuff sleeves on the tail rotor pitch change rod was moved approximately 3 inches aft of the bearing bracket. The top of the sleeve was gouged and scuffed. Both the forward and aft ends of the sleeve were slightly curled away from the rod. The forward edge of the sleeve was torn. No other mechanical failure or malfunction of the engine, airframe, or systems were identified that would have resulted in the accident. The guarded hydraulic cut off switch was found in the off position. Records show the pilot had approximately 2,500 hours of helicopter time with a total of 43.8 hours of flight time in this make and model of helicopter. Winds at the time of the accident were from 200 degrees at 16 knots, gusting to 21 knots. The Federal Aviation Administration Rotorcraft Flying Handbook states that a loss of tail rotor effectiveness "may occur in all single-rotor helicopters at airspeeds less then 30 knots. It is the result of the tail rotor not proving adequate thrust to maintain directional control, and is usually caused be either certain wind azimuths (directions) while hovering, or by an insufficient tail rotor thrust for a given power setting at high altitudes."

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

A loss of tail rotor effectiveness and the pilot's failure to maintain control of the helicopter. Factors associated with the accident were the binding of the tail rotor pitch changed rod, the gusty wind conditions, and the pilot’s lack of total experience in this make and model of helicopter.

Full narrative available

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