NTSB Identification: FTW03FA097.
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Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Sunday, February 16, 2003 in MI 700, GM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/28/2005
Aircraft: Bell 407, registration: N407HH
Injuries: 2 Fatal,3 Serious.

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, flown by 19,000-hour pilot and transporting 4 passengers to an offshore oil platform, experienced a catastrophic engine failure and autorotated into open ocean water in the Gulf Of Mexico. Within a few seconds after landing on the water, the helicopter rolled inverted, the pilot and passengers exited, inflated their personal life vests, and waited for rescue. The pilot and one of the passengers drowned prior to rescue personnel arriving about 2 hours after the accident. Surviving passenger statements indicated that they were not aware of an emergency lift raft on-board the helicopter, and that the skid-mounted emergency float system was not inflated prior to landing. Rescue personnel reported high wind and rough seas in the area of the accident. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the float "ARM" switch was found in the disarmed position and its cover closed. The skid-mounted emergency floats were found inside their protective bags. The float system tested functional, and no anomalies were found during airframe component examinations. Download data from the ECU showed that engine performance prior to the loss of power was normal and the engine was operating in a steady state condition prior to the initial deterioration of NG. Detailed inspection of the engine revealed progressive turbine wheel damage throughout the power turbine. The damage varied from approximately 95% of the airfoil material missing on the 1st stage wheel to approximately 10% of the material missing on the 4th stage wheel. The damage observed in the gas producer turbine section was consistent with the separation of one or more of the first stage wheel airfoils. Mostly all of the fracture surfaces were obscured, typical of elevated turbine temperatures (according to the manufacturer, in excess of turbine and material limits). All 4 turbine wheels had evidence of solutioning and incipient melting was observed at the tips of the airfoil remnants. Fracture surfaces of the 1st stage wheel airfoils did not reveal the presence of fatigue. Detailed metallurgical examination revealed the presence of sulfides on the 1st and 2nd stage turbine wheel surfaces. According to the manufacturer, the presence of sulfides is evidence that sulfidation has occurred. Damage on the concave surface adjacent to the fractures near the leading edges of the airfoils was found consistent with type 1 hot corrosion (sulfidation) damage. Examination of radial cracks at the trailing edges of the airfoils revealed heavy oxidation consistent with thermal fatigue. According to Rolls Royce, that "thermal fatigue cracking at the airfoil base is not uncommon." Evidence of EPS 10649 (S1 Aluminide, which is a protective coating applied to the turbine wheel during manufacturing), was confirmed adjacent to the corrosive damage found on the wheels.

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

The catastrophic failure of the engine resulting from 1st stage turbine wheel blade failure due to type 1 hot corrosion (sulfidation). Contributing factors were the pilot's failure to brief the passengers on emergency safety equipment (life raft), the pilot's failure to deploy the skid-mounted emergency float system during the autorotation, the high wind conditions, and rough sea state.

Full narrative available

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