NTSB Identification: WPR11LA244
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Wednesday, June 01, 2011 in Stockton, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/30/2011
Aircraft: HILLER UH-12E, registration: N68012
Injuries: 1 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 pilot initially reported that he was conducting low level agricultural drying of cherry trees when the tail rotor contacted a tree during a turn. He felt a shake or vibration through the controls and looked for a place to land. He was maneuvering the helicopter towards a road when the helicopter experienced a full left yaw. The pilot applied full right pedal to counter the yawing motion and entered autorotation through the trees to the ground. Subsequently the pilot revised his statement saying that the skids of his helicopter were at least 10-15 feet above the tallest tree when he felt a shake or vibration through the controls. Postaccident examination of the airplane by a mechanic and a FAA inspector found continuity between the tail rotor and the linkages through the drive train which lead to the main transmission. Control system continuity was also established. The tail boom near the tail rotor transmission was twisted clockwise, shearing the aluminum, which is consistent with a tail rotor imbalance condition. Tail rotor blade #1 was sheared off about one quarter of the distance between the blade root and the blade tip, and rotor blade #2 had compression deformation of the trailing edge near the blade root. The sheared off portion of tail rotor blade #1 was located in the orchard. Visual inspection found a circular impact deformation in the leading edge at the blade tip, separation of the blade tip weight from the blade, deformation of the blades surface area, and compression bending of the blade's trailing edge. The damage to blade #1 was consistent with an impact to a tree limb.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from obstacles.

Full narrative available

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