NTSB Identification: ERA12LA063
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 05, 2011 in West Palm Beach, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2012
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22 BETA, registration: N413RM
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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 of the helicopter received his private pilot certificate less than 4 months before the accident and had accumulated a total flight experience of 67 hours. He and a passenger were circling a boatyard about 600 feet above ground level (agl) at 60 knots with the intention of taking photographs. The pilot reported that, as he turned southbound (downwind) with the carburetor heat on, he noticed a loss of airspeed. He moved the cyclic forward in an attempt to maintain airspeed; however, the low rotor rpm horn sounded, and he performed an autorotation to a residential area. The helicopter impacted power lines, trees, and a residence. Recorded weather data revealed that the wind was from the north-northeast at 16 knots, gusting to 24 knots. Review of radar data revealed that the pilot turned into a tailwind at an altitude of 300 to 400 feet agl. Speed calculations based on the radar data revealed that the airspeed decreased from about 39 to 31 knots during the turn. The calculations did not include wind gusts, and, given the magnitude of the gusts, it is likely that the helicopter’s airspeed slowed to the point where it lost translational lift and began to settle with power. A subsequent examination of the wreckage, including a successful test-run of the engine, did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. The helicopter manufacturer recommends that photo flights should only be conducted by well trained, experienced pilots who have at least 500 hours pilot-in-command time in helicopters and over 100 hours in the model of helicopter flown.

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

The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed during a low-altitude turn into gusty tailwind conditions, which resulted in a loss of translational lift and settling with power. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's lack of total flight experience.

Full narrative available

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