NTSB Identification: LAX04CA268.
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Accident occurred Thursday, July 15, 2004 in Lihue, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/29/2004
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas 369FF, registration: N530RL
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The main rotor contacted a tree during firefighting operations. The pilot completed an emergency landing, and the helicopter rolled onto its side. The pilot was maneuvering the helicopter slowly toward a fire, almost in a hovering condition. The pilot's attention was focused on the bucket attached to the helicopter, and the clearance between the bucket and the trees. Just after he initiated the water release, the main rotor blades impacted a tree. The pilot felt that the accident was a result of his focused attention on the bucket and his failure to see the limited clearance between the tree and the main rotor blades. The pilot noted no mechanical malfunctions with the helicopter, nor were any found during a examination by an FAA inspector. The pilot's total bambi bucket experience was 10 hours, and he dumped 60 buckets over a 2-hour period the day of the accident.

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

The pilot misjudging the clearance between the tree and the main rotor blades. Contributing factors to the accident were the high workload of the pilot and his lack of experience with bambi bucket operations.

Full narrative available

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