NTSB Identification: CEN12FA621
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, September 10, 2012 in Houston, TX
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22 BETA, registration: N281RG
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
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 either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On September 10, 2012, at 1545 central daylight time, N281RG, a Robinson R22 Beta, was substantially damaged when it impacted a dirt service road in a steel pipe storage yard in Houston, Texas. The commercial pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Helicopter Services, Incorporated, Spring, Texas. No flight plan was filed for the aerial photo flight that departed Baytown Airport (HPY), Baytown, Texas, approximately 1345. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that was conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 91.
The helicopter departed David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport (DWH), Houston, Texas, about 1300, and flew to Baytown where the pilot purchased 22.9 gallons of fuel at 1329. Around 1345, the pilot and the passenger departed and were observed about two hours later by several witnesses maneuvering over the steel pipe yard in south-east Houston.
A witness was driving west on Highway 90 toward the beltway when he first observed the helicopter. He said it was about a mile away and at first he thought it was a remote controlled helicopter. The witness said the helicopter was “way up there” and estimated that is was approximately 400-500 feet above the ground. The helicopter was spinning slowly around the main rotor shaft and was descending straight down vertically about 70-80 miles per hour. There was no smoke or parts coming off the helicopter as it descended. The main rotor blades were turning "slower than expected" and were not deflected upwards. The tail rotor did not appear to be turning. The helicopter then impacted the ground resulting in a large dust cloud. The witness stopped his vehicle and proceeded to run towards to the helicopter. After he negotiated a chain link fence, he and another witness used fire extinguishers to contain the post-impact fire until the fire department arrived.
Another witness was driving east on Highway 90 toward the Beltway when he first observed the helicopter about a mile away. It was 70 to 100 feet-above the ground and was slowly spinning counter clockwise around the main rotor shaft and was in a slow vertical descent. It seemed like it was in “slow-motion.” When the helicopter was approximately 40 to 50 feet above the ground, its descent rate increased rapidly before it impacted the ground. The witness thought the pilot was trying to land and he did not observe any smoke coming from the helicopter. He noted that the main rotor blades were turning “pretty slow” and it seemed “like he lost power.” The body of the helicopter was level and the main rotor blades were not deflected upwards. The witness could not hear the helicopter prior to the impact, which occurred just as he was stepping out of his vehicle. After the impact, he observed a large dust plume as he was running to the steel yard. As he was trying to crawl under a chain link fence he saw a fireball coming from the helicopter. He and another responder used fire extinguishers to contain the post-impact fire until the fire department arrived.
The helicopter came to rest upright on a heading of 195 degrees magnetic on a dirt road located in the steel pipe storage yard. The entire helicopter was accounted for at the site and the fuselage was consumed by post-impact fire. The skids were spread and level with the belly of the fuselage. The body of the helicopter was listed to the right. The helicopter was moved to a secure storage facility for further examination.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate for rotorcraft-helicopter. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) First Class medical was issued on December 16, 2011. The pilot had applied to attend the Robinson Pilot Safety Course a week before the accident. According to his application, he reported a total of 740 hours, of which 600 hours were in the R22B.
Weather reported at Ellington Field (EFD), Houston, Texas, approximately 16 miles southwest of the accident site, at 1550, was wind 130 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 8,000 feet, temperature 93 degrees F, dewpoint 62 degrees F, and an altimeter setting of 30.02 inches HG.
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