NTSB Identification: SEA06CA137.
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Accident occurred Thursday, July 06, 2006 in Medford, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/31/2006
Aircraft: Hughes 369A, registration: N72LB
Injuries: 4 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 pilot said that he flew a high reconnaissance circle over his intended landing site. He observed ripples on a pond which led him to believe that the wind was from the south. During his landing approach, as he descended to 10 to 15 feet AGL, he pulled up on the collective to extend his glide. The pilot said the helicopter started to settle and became very unstable. He "recognized it as settling with power down wind." He leveled the skids and the helicopter hit the ground; he said that 1 or 2 seconds later the helicopter began to lift and turn to the right. He applied left pedal with no response; he then lowered the collective. Subsequently, the left skid tube caught the ground and collapsed, and the helicopter came to rest on its left side. The main rotor blades did not come in contact with the ground or any part of the helicopter, but the tail rotor blades were broken. Additionally the tail boom and tail rotor drive shaft were broken. The pilot said that after he got out of the helicopter, he noticed that the wind was variable with light gusts. He said that the pond was being filled with water which gave him an incorrect interpretation of the wind conditions for landing.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's misinterpretation of the wind direction (in-flight planning) and subsequent improper descent rate to the ground during a landing attempt. A factor was the tailwind conditions.
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