NTSB Identification: ERA12TA515
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Saturday, August 18, 2012 in San Juan, PR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/11/2012
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N118EC
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

The helicopter was serviced with 25 gallons of fuel about 3 hours before the accident flight, and the pilot thought he had a total of 60 gallons of fuel on board. About 35 minutes into the flight, the crew smelled a fuel-like odor and initiated a return to the airport. Five minutes later, the fuel pump warning light illuminated, and the engine lost power. The pilot initiated an autorotation into a parking lot, and the helicopter landed hard, partially severing the tail boom. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that the fuel tank was empty and undamaged. There were no signs of fuel leakage observed, and the fuel filler cap was secure. All fuel system components and lines were in good working order. The fuel gauge read “zero” when energized on the ground. Fuel was later added to the tank to check for leaks; none were observed. Finally, the engine was removed from the airframe and installed on a similar helicopter. The engine was test run on the ground and in a hover for a total of 40 minutes with no anomalies noted. The fuel burn during the test run was normal for the helicopter. Neither pilot reported observing the fuel tank gauges during the accident flight. It is likely that the crew began the flight with much less fuel than they thought they had and did not monitor the fuel state during flight.

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

The crew’s inadequate preflight inspection and failure to monitor the fuel state during flight, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

Full narrative available

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