NTSB Identification: ERA12LA541
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 01, 2012 in McVeytown, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/2013
Aircraft: JOHNSTON DOUGLAS S SAFARI, registration: N70415
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

A witness who spoke with the pilot before the flight reported that the pilot had checked the fuel before departure and intended to "make a couple of laps" before proceeding to a local airport to purchase more fuel. Another witness observed the helicopter perform two 180-degree turns before it descended and impacted the ground. Examination of the accident site confirmed a vertical impact, and the helicopter damage was consistent with low or minimal rotor speed at the time of impact. Inspection of the fuel system revealed no fuel in the right fuel tank and about 2 pints of fuel in the left fuel tank. No contamination was observed in the fuel on board, and no obstructions were observed in the fuel system.

The experimental amateur-built helicopter was constructed from a kit and received its airworthiness certificate in 2003. The pilot purchased the helicopter about 4 months before the accident through the kit manufacturing company, which was brokering the sale of the helicopter for the builder’s estate. The pilot did not hold a pilot certificate and did not register the helicopter with the FAA. Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed that about 2 years before the accident, he had received 3.2 hours of helicopter instruction. Interviews revealed that when the pilot acquired the helicopter, he flew an additional 15 hours with the owner of the helicopter kit manufacturing company (in the accident helicopter and another company helicopter). However, these flights were limited to hover practice.

It is likely that while the pilot was maneuvering the helicopter at a low altitude, it experienced a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion. At this point, the pilot needed to immediately enter an autorotation. However, given the pilot’s limited flight training and his lack of pilot certification (he would have had to demonstrate an autorotation in order to become a certificated helicopter pilot), he almost certainly was not proficient in performing autorotations. The helicopter’s vertical impact with low rotor rpm is consistent with the pilot failing to make the control inputs necessary to enter an autorotation.

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

The pilot's lack of proficiency and certification, which resulted in his failure to enter an autorotation when the engine lost power. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate fuel planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and a subsequent loss of engine power.

Full narrative available

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