NTSB Identification: WPR13LA303
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, June 28, 2013 in Missoula, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/27/2014
Aircraft: BELL 206L-3, registration: N868H
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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

The pilot reported that, while making a shallow approach to the water to fill a water bucket in preparation for his fourth water drop, he was looking down at the bucket, and, just as the bucket went into the water, the helicopter began “settling [with power].” The pilot corrected the condition by moving the cyclic right and forward and descending the helicopter, which placed it “back in good air” and then moved the helicopter forward. With the bucket in the water, the pilot pulled the cyclic aft as the line became tight. However, the helicopter’s nose dropped very low instead of rising as expected, and the main rotor struck the tail. The helicopter subsequently started spinning right likely because the main rotor strike had severed the tail rotor drive shaft, and, after two or three turns, the pilot realized that he could not control the helicopter, so he rolled off the throttle, which stopped the spin. The helicopter then descended and contacted the water hard. The pilot determined that he had not taken into account that the river had moved the bucket downstream, and, as a result, the bucket was behind (not directly below) the helicopter, which caused the helicopter’s nose to pitch down when the line became tight. The pilot reported no mechanical anomalies with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation, and he stated that the wind was calm at the time of the accident.

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

The pilot's failure to prevent the helicopter from settling with power and to maintain proper position relative to an external load, which resulted in a loss of control and subsequent hard landing.

Full narrative available

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