NTSB Identification: CHI05LA173.
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Accident occurred Friday, July 01, 2005 in Crete, IL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/30/2006
Aircraft: Robinson R22 Beta, registration: N997SA
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 sustained substantial damage following an in-flight fire, hard landing, and subsequent ground fire. The pilot's accident report stated, "We were flying ... when I noticed clutch light on. The light stayed on for longer than 7 [seconds] and my decision was to pull clutch circuit breaker to save other belt. I took over the controls when the clutch light went on and I started to set my self up for emergency landing. ... At the same time I noticed smoke inside the cockpit and the smoke was filling inside fast. ... At about 1100 MSL I noticed low rpm light and horn went on, so I lowered the collective and entered autorotation. ... We exited the aircraft and could see the flames above the belts about 3 feet tall." Burnt pieces of alternator and drive belts were recovered from the site. A separated section of a recovered drive belt measured about a foot in length. The bottom quarter of the dipstick had oil on it when removed. The oil cooler exhibited damage on its lower and inboard surfaces, along the aft edge. The lower aft corner of the cooler was separated at its seam there. A dark media covered the engine in the area adjacent to the oil cooler. An oil like media was found on the tail rotor's guard and on the vertical stabilizer. The tailcone was burned away at its forward end. No pre-impact failures of the flight control system were found. The landing gear exhibited downward yielding.

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

The separation of the drive belt, during cruise, leading to the puncturing of the oil cooler and subsequent fire. An additional cause was the pilot's restricted lookout during the emergency landing resulting in the hard landing.

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