NTSB Identification: LAX03LA119.
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Accident occurred Friday, March 28, 2003 in San Carlos, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/01/2004
Aircraft: Enstrom F280FX, registration: N5698M
Injuries: 2 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 helicopter was returning from a local area photography flight when the engine lost power during the landing flare causing the helicopter to land hard. The pilot stated that he made a long approach towards the departure end of runway 30, he executed a 15-foot flare for landing. The low fuel pressure light illuminated, he verified that the fuel boost pump was on, and as he "rolled the throttle on," the engine "sputtered and went dead." In an attempt to safely land the helicopter the pilot made a hard autorotative landing causing substantial damage. Fueling receipts from Rabbit Aviation Services show that the helicopter was fueled on two separate occasions on the day of the accident. At 1125, 32.9 gallons of fuel were added, and at 1403, 39.4 gallons were added. The Enstrom 280FX has a usable fuel capacity of 40 gallons. At 30 inches of manifold pressure and 78 percent power, the endurance at sea level is 2.0 hours. At 32 inches of manifold pressure and 83 percent power, the endurance is 1.8 hours. The pilot reported taking off at 1445, and the accident occurred about 1650.

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

Fuel exhaustion due to the pilot's inadequate fuel consumption calculations and his inadequate in-flight planning decision. A factor was the low altitude from which the autorotation was attempted.

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