NTSB Identification: WPR12LA109B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, February 19, 2012 in Antioch, CA
Aircraft: BEECH 35-A33, registration: N433JC
Injuries: 1 Minor,2 Uninjured.

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 February 19, 2012, about 1845 Pacific standard time, a Beech 35-A33 airplane, N433JC, and a Robinson R22 Beta helicopter, N7508Y, collided midair near Antioch, California. The certificated private pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a local flight. The certificated commercial pilot was operating the helicopter under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 as a solo cross-country flight. The pilot of the helicopter sustained minor injuries, and the pilot and passenger of the airplane were uninjured. The helicopter was receiving flight following at the time of the accident, and departed Hayward Executive Airport, Hayward, California about 1815, with a planned destination of Sacramento Executive Airport, Sacramento, California. The airplane departed Byron Airport, Byron, California, about 1835. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and neither aircraft filed a flight plan.

The airplane pilot departed Byron with the intention of performing three night landings, and 30 minutes of flight over Antioch and the Sacramento Delta area. They climbed to 2,500 feet mean sea level (msl), on a west heading, and were both looking ahead at airplane lights about 15-20 miles away. The pilot pointed out the local power station, and a few seconds later, they felt a collision. Neither occupants observed another aircraft prior to the collision, and the pilot was concerned that they may have struck a tower or bird. The airplane immediately began to shudder, and roll to the right. The pilot looked to the right wing and could see a hole, and a piece of tubing protruding from the leading edge. He established airplane control, and began a 180-degree climbing left turn to 3,000 feet. He reported that his landing lights were on throughout the flight, and that although his transponder was switched on and set to 1200, he had not established radio contact with any air traffic control facility prior to the collision.

The pilot elected to return to Byron Airport, and while en route he established radio contact with Northern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (NORCAL Approach). He maintained straight and level flight by utilizing continuous left aileron and rudder control inputs. During the final approach segment, the propeller speed began to decrease and he was unable to maintain altitude. As the airplane began to slow down, it began to pitch to the right despite his left control inputs. The airplane subsequently landed hard in a field short of the runway.

The helicopter pilot departed Hayward for the nonstop flight, with a route that was to follow highways to Concord and Antioch, and ultimately Sacramento. She contacted NORCAL approach for flight following once she had reached Dublin, and was issued a discreet transponder code. Once over Concord, the NORCAL Approach controller transferred her to Travis approach. She continued the flight, and a short time later received a traffic advisory from the Travis controller. She did not recall the specifics of the advisory, but remembers performing a scan to her 3 o'clock position. A short time later, she caught site of the silhouette of an airplane and a propeller at her 4 o'clock position. She performed an evasive maneuver to the left, and then felt the helicopter being struck. She did not know the extent of the damage, and as such, elected to immediately perform a precautionary landing. She choose a lit highway as a landing spot; however, as she approached, she observed multiple automobiles and diverted to a spot adjacent to the highway. Upon landing, the helicopter rolled onto its left side, sustaining substantial damage to the main cabin and the tail cone, which became separated midspan.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that a forward portion of helicopter skid tube had become imbedded about midspan in the leading edge of the right wing. Additionally, a 6-inch-long tip section had become separated from one of the airplane's three propeller blades.

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