NTSB Identification: NYC02LA192.
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Accident occurred Sunday, September 15, 2002 in Burtonsville, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/28/2004
Aircraft: Hughes 369A, registration: N336SP
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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

About one minute after liftoff, on the helicopters first flight after an annual inspection, the pilot experienced a sudden shuttering of the fuselage, followed by a chip detector light and a loss of directional control. The helicopter began to turn to the left, and would not respond to anti-torque pedal input. As the helicopter neared the heliport, "everything in the cockpit lit up," and the pilot observed the rotor tachometer decrease below 96 percent. The engine then lost total power, and the pilot performed a forced landing to a reservoir. As the helicopter neared the water, the engine "ignited" again, and the helicopter began to rotate to the right. The pilot set the helicopter down on the water, where it rolled to the right, and sank. According to a manufacturer's report of the examination, no abnormalities were noted with the engine or its related components. Damage to the tailrotor drive system was consistent with sudden stoppage or gradual binding of the tailrotor gearbox. Review of the helicopters maintenance records revealed that the tailrotor swash-plate assembly, the tailrotor pitch bearings on both blades, and the tailrotor bellcrank bearing at the swash-plate, were replaced during an annual inspection completed 2 days prior to the accident; however, the component history of the tailrotor gearbox could not be determined.

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

The failure of the tailrotor gearbox for undetermined reasons.

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