NTSB Identification: WPR12LA022
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 27, 2011 in Colusa, CA
Aircraft: MCDONNELL DOUGLAS 500D, registration: N61PJ
Injuries: 1 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On October 27, 2011, about 1440 Pacific daylight time, a McDonnell Douglas MD-500D helicopter, N61PJ, was substantially damaged during an autorotation and forced landing about 6 miles west of Colusa, California, following a complete loss of engine power. The helicopter was owned and operated by PJ Helicopters, and was being utilized for communications cable installation and support activity for Summit Line Construction Company. The pilot received minor injuries. The work flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

According to the pilot, he had flown the helicopter a total of about 5, non-continuous, hours on the day of the accident, operating from a remote landing zone near the job site. He had just transferred two construction personnel from one cable tower to another one, and was beginning to climb and translate the helicopter clear of the tower, when he heard a noise and felt a yaw that indicated to him that the engine had ceased developing power. The helicopter began to descend rapidly. The pilot began an autorotation, maneuvered the helicopter away from the tower, and attempted to flare for ground impact. The helicopter impacted in a freshly-plowed field. The aft section of the tailboom and both landing skids were partially fracture-separated from the helicopter. The main rotor blades and flight control linkage were damaged. The fuselage sustained substantial damage. The height of the towers was reported as about 165 feet.

According to the pilot, he held a commercial pilot certificate with a rotorcraft-helicopter rating. He reported a total flight experience of 1,980 hours, including 330 hours in the accident helicopter make and model. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in January 2011, and his most recent flight review was completed in February 2011.

According to FAA information, the helicopter was manufactured and registered as a Hughes model 369D in 1977, and equipped with an Allison/Rolls-Royce C20B series turbine engine. Operator provided information indicated that the most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on October 19, 2011, and at the time of the accident, the helicopter had accumulated a total time in service of 11,579 hours.

The operator reported that the weather conditions about the time of the accident included clear skies, wind speed of 5 knots, and temperature about 27 degrees C. Commercially available geographic data indicated that the accident site elevation was about 430 feet above mean sea level.

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