NTSB Identification: ATL04TA116.
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Accident occurred Friday, May 14, 2004 in Louisburg, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2005
Aircraft: Hughes 269A, registration: N115ES
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Minor.

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

According to the pilot, the purpose of the flight was an ongoing program directed at drug eradication. He stated that shortly after takeoff, he felt two vibrations and then heard a loud bang from the back of the helicopter. He stated the helicopter yawed to the right, and he entered an autorotation and maneuvered toward a small clearing in the wooded area he was over at the time. The main rotor blades struck a pine tree approximately 30 feet tall on the edge of the clearing and impacted the ground on the helicopters left side. A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed that the pilot did not have an airman's certificate indicating he was rated in helicopters nor could he provide evidence that he was trained in helicopters. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records Division revealed the pilot was issued a third class medical certificate on September 26, 1988. The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 39 total flight hours. A review of maintenance records revealed that the last recorded annual inspection was completed on March 21, 2004, at an airframe total time of 5,506.2 hours. On March 13, 1980, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) 80-05-05 addressing Schweizer Helicopters Model 269 series equipped with a tail boom center support (saddle) fitting certificated in all categories. The AD was issued to prevent fatigue failure of the tail boom center support fitting and the resultant loss of the tailboom. A review of the maintenance records dating back to March 13, 1980, found no logbook entries that indicated the required inspections outlined in the AD had been accomplished. Examination of the tail rotor assembly found the tailboom saddle attachment broken. Further examination found rubbing on the tailrotor drive shaft near the broken tailboom saddle attachment. Examination found that the tailboom support fitting fractured as a result of fatigue initiating at the base of a large corrosion pit on the tip surface of the forward wall. This surface, which was in direct contact with the tailboom, was only partially covered by paint, and contained extensive pitting damage. Following the fracture of the saddle support fitting the tailboom dropped and rubbed against the tail drive shaft fracturing it in overstress.

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

Fatigue failure of the tailboom saddle fitting which resulted in a loss of aircraft control. Also causal was inadequate maintenance due to non-compliance to an airworthiness directive requiring inspection of the saddle fitting. A contributing factor was the pilot's lack of proper certification.

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