NTSB Identification: LAX08TA116.
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Accident occurred Friday, April 18, 2008 in Logan, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/28/2008
Aircraft: Hughes TH-55, registration: N6358Z
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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.

The helicopter was registered to, and operated by a state university. The public-use flight was conducted for the purpose of demonstrating rotor blade tracking and balancing to an aviation maintenance technician class. The helicopter was placed facing south into the wind on the asphalt ramp about 150 feet in front of the maintenance hangar. The doors of the hangar face north, and the hangar "seemed to block the wind in the run-up area." The pilot described the weather as "quite windy (20-25 knots est.) with scattered cumulus, very gusty, temperature around 50 degrees." In an interview conducted on the day of the accident, the pilot told a police officer that he had lifted the helicopter to a hover at 6 to 8 inches above the ground and was about to set it down, but mistakenly rolled the throttle on instead of rolling it off. The helicopter lifted to just above the height of the hangar and was caught by a gust of wind. The pilot attempted to descend, but when the helicopter descended below the height of the hangar, it "lost the wind lift and began to descend too fast." Initially the pilot reported to the Safety Board investigator that he intended to fly, however, in a written report submitted 11 days after the accident, the pilot stated that he had "no intent or expectation of flight," and that he "suddenly and unexpectedly" found himself "5 to 10 feet in the air, out of control." The helicopter was drifting toward the students who were standing about 100 feet away. The pilot attempted to turn away from the students and set the helicopter down as quickly as possible. The helicopter touched down tail low and hard on the left rear skid, the main and tail rotor blades contacted the ground, and the helicopter rolled on to its left side. The pilot's medical certificate and flight review were expired. He reported no flight hours in the 90 days preceding the accident, and he told the police officer that "it had been a while" since he had flown a helicopter. Following the accident, the university implemented changes in class procedures for all maintenance courses. The new procedures include having a current, appropriately rated pilot at the controls for all starting and running operations, including both airplanes and helicopters. Also, run-ups will now be performed only in designated areas and calm weather conditions.

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

The pilot's inadequate compensation for the wind conditions and failure to maintain control of the helicopter while hovering. Contributing to the accident were the wind gusts and the pilot's lack of recent experience in helicopters.

Full narrative available

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