NTSB Identification: CEN13FA121
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 02, 2013 in Seminole, OK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/08/2014
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER EC130 B4, registration: N334AM
Injuries: 4 Serious.

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.

The pilot reported hearing a sound like something had struck the helicopter shortly after departure while about 1,600 to 1,700 feet mean sea level. The engine lost power, and the pilot performed an autorotation to a field. While maneuvering to land, he saw a barbed wire fence obstructing the intended landing area, so he maneuvered the helicopter to clear the fence. The helicopter subsequently cleared the fence and landed hard in a field.
Engine examination revealed that the four axial compressor blades exhibited significant deformation on the outboard tips of their leading edges in the direction opposite of normal rotation consistent with the ingestion of soft body foreign object debris, such as ice. A subsequent engine run did not detect any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. For 3 days before the accident flight, the helicopter was parked outside without its engine cover installed and was exposed to light drizzle, rain, mist, and fog. The engine inlet cover was installed the day before the accident at an unknown time. The helicopter remained outside and exposed to freezing temperatures throughout the night until 2 hours before the flight. Although the helicopter was maintained in a ready status on the helipad and maintenance personnel performed daily preflight/airworthiness checks, the inlet to the first-stage of the axial compressor was not inspected to ensure that it was free of ice in accordance with the Aircraft Maintenance Manual. Based on the weather conditions that the helicopter was exposed to during the 3 days before the accident, it is likely that ice formed in the engine air inlet before the flight and that, when the pilot increased the engine power during takeoff, the accumulated ice separated from the inlet and was ingested by the engine and damaged the compressor blades.

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

The loss of engine power due to ice ingestion. Contributing to the accident was maintenance personnel’s delayed decision to install the helicopter's engine inlet cover until after the engine had been exposed to moisture and freezing temperatures and their inadequate daily preflight/airworthiness checks, which did not detect the ice formation.

Full narrative available

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