NTSB Identification: CEN12LA525
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, August 07, 2012 in Avalon, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/24/2014
Aircraft: BELL 214ST, registration: N409SB
Injuries: 2 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 helicopter was on its third test flight when the tail rotor 90-degree gearbox broke in two and separated from the helicopter. The crew conducted an autorotation to a field, and the helicopter came to rest on its side.  Examination of the helicopter and components revealed that one of the tail rotor’s two counterweight bellcranks and associated hardware were missing. Impact marks consistent with a counterweight bellcrank were found at the base of its associated tail rotor blade and on the aft right side of the helicopter. The remaining counterweight bellcrank was in place; however, the cotter pin for the castellated nut was missing. A review of the aircraft maintenance records revealed that the tail rotor assembly had been removed and reinstalled after the installation of test instrumentation. The maintenance records lacked specific details on whether the unit and its components were previously handled as a subassembly or as individual components when the tail rotor assembly was initially removed. Because the records did not indicate whether the unit should be handled as individual parts, the tail rotor was reinstalled as a complete subassembly, meaning that individual components, such as the nut and cotter pin, were not individually inspected before or after reinstallation on the helicopter. Reinstalling the tail rotor assembly in this manner led to the counterweight bellcrank retaining nut not being properly torqued and secured with a cotter pin.

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

Maintenance personnel’s failure to properly torque the retaining nut and install the cotter pin that secured the helicopter’s tail rotor counterweight bellcrank. Contributing to the accident was the lack of detailed maintenance records that documented previous maintenance actions.

Full narrative available

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