NTSB Identification: ANC14FA030
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in Chugiak, AK
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N392GP
Injuries: 1 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 May 28, 2014, at 1433 Alaska daylight time, N392GP, a Robinson R44 II helicopter, collided with the ground and caught fire while maneuvering for landing during an external-load flight at Birchwood Airport, Chugiak, Alaska. The commercial pilot was fatally injured, and the helicopter was destroyed by the ground impact and post-impact fire. The flight was operated by Global Positioning Services, Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The local flight departed Birchwood Airport about 1315.

According to an operator's representative, the pilot had been conducting practice flights with a 150-foot long-line attached to a fluid-filled, 55-gallon barrel in preparation for an upcoming project. Several witnesses at the airport said that they saw the helicopter flying on the day of the accident with the barrel suspended beneath it by the long-line. One witness who was flying his airplane on short final for runway 20 when the accident occurred had heard the helicopter pilot communicating on the airport common traffic advisory frequency, providing regular position reports as he maneuvered the helicopter. That witness saw the helicopter maneuver from a hover over the end of runway 20 with the barrel suspended on the long-line to the area east of the runway on the ramp near where the accident occurred. Other witnesses reported that the ramp location is where the pilot typically sets down the barrel and lands the helicopter. The airplane pilot reported that he saw the nose of the helicopter pitch up before it rolled to the left, descended, and impacted the ground. Other witnesses on the ground reported hearing two loud "bang" sounds a few seconds apart and said that, when they looked to see what made the sound, they saw the helicopter on the ground in flames.

Initial examination of the helicopter at the accident site revealed that the fuselage came to rest on its left side on a gravel road adjacent to the paved airport ramp, and much of the cockpit and cabin structures were consumed by fire. The tail boom and tail rotor were on the ground aft of the burned fuselage. The main rotor mast assembly with the main rotor hub attached was found separated on the ground several feet away from the fuselage and engine. One main rotor blade was separated outboard of the hub near the blade root, and the other main rotor blade was attached in its entirety and damaged. All separated pieces of main rotor blade were located at the accident site. The length of a linear ground scar near the fuselage was consistent with the length of a main rotor blade. The barrel with which the pilot had been practicing was found on its side in the grass adjacent to the airport ramp. The long-line was attached to the barrel and was not attached to the helicopter's pilot-controlled, belly-mounted cargo hook.

The closest official weather observation station is located at the Birchwood Airport. At 1416, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind, 300 degrees (true) at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, clear; temperature, 57 degrees F; dew point, 43 degrees F; altimeter, 30.10 inHg.

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