NTSB Identification: ANC02LA043.
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Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Thursday, June 06, 2002 in GALENA, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/25/2003
Aircraft: Robinson R-44, registration: N7130G
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

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

The commercial certificated pilot landed the skid-equipped helicopter in an area of brush/grass to pick up two passengers who had been conducting a ground survey. The pilot stayed at the controls of the helicopter, and reduced the engine rpm to 70 percent as the ground personnel were loading their equipment into external baskets on the helicopter. The equipment included packs and a chain saw. The ground personnel reported that the chain saw had not been used in the previous hour, and the engine was cold. The pilot smelled smoke, and the passengers noticed flames under the helicopter. The pilot attempted to regain full engine rpm to lift-off from the landing area, but was unable to do so because the engine quit running. The pilot exited the helicopter, and along with the ground personnel, attempted to extinguish the flames on the ground. They were unsuccessful, and the pilot attempted to restart the helicopter. It would not start. The fire consumed the helicopter, and about 60 acres of brush/grass. This model helicopter's exhaust system is positioned at the rear and bottom portion of the aft fuselage. The underside of the engine area is open, allowing cooling-fan air to exit aft and downward, around the muffler and exhaust. The bottom of the muffler, at the rear area of the engine compartment is about 19.5 inches above the ground. The exhaust pipe, routed through the rear bulkhead of the engine compartment, exits the aft end of the fuselage about 27 inches above the ground. The pilot/operator manual for the helicopter contains a safety advisory that states, in part: "Never land in tall dry grass. The exhaust is low to the ground and very hot; a grass fire may be ignited."

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

The pilot's selection of unsuitable terrain for landing which precipitated a grass fire. Factors contributing to the accident were the manufacturer's inadequate design of the helicopter's exhaust system, placing it low to the ground, and terrain conditions consisting of dry tussock grass.

Full narrative available

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