NTSB Identification: NYC03LA195.
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Accident occurred Friday, September 05, 2003 in Somerville, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/28/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140, registration: N6183J
Injuries: 1 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.

According to the pilot of the accident airplane, while he was on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, he heard a helicopter announce over the UNICOM frequency that he was "inbound...5 miles to the northeast." The pilot continued in the pattern, and when he was at an altitude of 100 feet on final approach, he obtained visual contact with the helicopter, which was descending towards the taxiway adjacent to runway 30, about 1/3 down the runway. The pilot then decided to initiate a go-around; however, the airplane had already "lost its lift," and only climbed to about 20-30 feet before it was blown "by the propwash of the helicopter" to the left of the runway. The right wing dropped, impacted the runway, and the airplane "cartwheeled," coming to rest on the grassy area between the runway and taxiway. A review of FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 90-23E, Wake Turbulence, revealed: "A hovering helicopter generates a downwash from its main rotor(s) similar to the "prop wash" of a conventional aircraft. However, in forward flight, this energy is transformed into a pair of strong, high-speed trailing vortices similar to wing-tip vortices of larger fixed-wing aircraft. Pilots should avoid helicopter vortices since helicopter forward flight airspeeds are often very low which generate exceptionally strong wake turbulence."

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

The pilot's delay in executing a go-around, which resulted in an encounter with wake turbulence from a helicopter. A factor in the accident was the wake turbulence.

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