NTSB Identification: WPR13FA264
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 06, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N915BW
Injuries: 2 Minor,2 Uninjured.
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 June 6, 2013, at 1417 Pacific daylight time, a Robinson R44 II, N915BW, rolled over following an emergency landing in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California. The helicopter was registered to Mile High Rotors, and operated by Southern California Helicopters as a post-maintenance repositioning flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight instructor and private pilot sustained minor injuries, the two passengers were not injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence. The local flight departed Brackett Field Airport, La Verne, California, about 1330 with a planned destination of Long Beach Airport (Daugherty Field), Long Beach, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
According to the flight instructor, the primary purpose of the flight was to return the helicopter to Southern California Helicopters flight school, following maintenance at a facility at Redlands Municipal Airport, Redlands, California. The private pilot rated passenger’s experience was limited to the Robinson R22 helicopter, so the flight instructor invited him along to gain familiarity with the operation of the R44. From Redlands, they flew to Bracket Field to pick up the two passengers, one of who was a relative of the instructor. The instructor’s intension was to give the passengers a tour of the Los Angeles area before returning the helicopter to Long Beach.
They serviced the helicopter with fuel, departed, and flew towards Hollywood. The flight then continued west to Santa Monica and back inland over the Universal Studios Theme Park, Forest Lawn Cemetery, and the “Hollywood” sign. From there they transitioned passed the Griffith Observatory, flying east about 1,700 feet msl (mean sea level). A few seconds later, the Main Rotor Gearbox Chip warning light illuminated. The helicopter continued to operate normally, and the flight instructor immediately began looking for an area to land.
He observed a potential landing site to the left, adjacent to a trail on the southern slopes of Griffith Park, and as he approached the area the helicopter began making a sound that he could not accurately describe, other than it was unusual, and he had never heard it before. He could see hikers on the intended landing area, so he turned the helicopter left towards the north, following a ridgeline in an effort to find an alternate landing site. He followed the ridge back around to the southwest and spotted a small clearing on a pinnacle at the end of a trail. He initiated a descent, while maneuvering the helicopter onto a west heading. They landed on the clearing, and before he had a chance to fully lower the collective, he felt the helicopter slip. He then raised the collective, and the helicopter immediately spun to the left and rolled over.
The helicopter came to rest on the western slope of the ridge, about 5 feet downhill from the landing site. The general area overlooked the Roosevelt Municipal Golf Course, and Vermont Canyon Tennis Courts, about 300 feet below.
The helicopter was located on its left side in dry grass and scrub, with its nose facing north. The main cabin remained largely intact, with the tailboom bent 45 degrees upwards at the bulkhead seam. One of the main rotor blades was separated about 2-feet from the teeter hinge, and had come to rest against the tailboom. The second blade remained attached to the hinge, and sustained bending damage midspan.
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