On February 2, 1999, about 2152 eastern standard time, a Bell OH-58C helicopter, N151ES, registered to the City of Lakeland Police Department, and operated as a public-use aircraft, was destroyed during liftoff, at the Lakeland Airport, Lakeland, Florida. The airline transport-rated pilot reported serious injuries and the passenger reported minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed in the vicinity, and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight was being conducted in accordance with Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, he had completed his duty day and had secured the helicopter in the hangar. Another officer then came to him at the hangar and said that the Polk County Sheriff needed their assistance right away. The pilot then took the helicopter out to the pad. The pilot said that his normal procedure was to take the helicopter to the pad on a dolly, and the dolly was pulled by a tractor (tug), which was about the size of a riding lawn mower. When he would get to the pad, about 25 yards from the hangar, he would disconnect the tractor and move it out of the way. On this flight because of the urgency of the request he left the tractor attached, and moved it to the left of the dolly, but not out of the way.

The pilot stated, "...aircraft was pulled out of the hangar on a dolly. Tug was left connected to [the] dolly. Pilot (police officer) and observer entered aircraft and completed pre takeoff preparation/checklist. Dew [had] formed on the windshield. Pilot called for departure...at 2152...aircraft was brought to a hover, takeoff check completed. Pilot initiated forward flight for departure heading 240 degrees. Aircraft moved forward approximately 12 feet when left skid tip struck tug, skid became stuck under hood approximately 6 inches from top of tug. Aircraft pivoted forward causing tail boom to move up, pilot attempted to correct pitch/attitude change with aft cyclic input causing main rotor to strike tail boom cutting off vertical fin, tail rotor and gear box, plus about 5 feet of tail boom. Nose pitched down causing main rotor to strike ground, rolling aircraft over as it spun...aircraft rolled to right...."

The accident occurred during the hours of darkness approximately 27 degrees, 59 minutes north, and 082 degrees, 01 minutes west.


Information on the pilot is contained in this report on page 3, under First Pilot Information. According to the pilot, on the day of the accident he woke up at 0630. He had a flight physical at 0900, and the physical was completed at 1030. He ate lunch from 1100 to 1200, and reported for duty at 1300. Before the accident, he had flown a total of 1.6 hours. He was scheduled to be off duty at 2200.


Meteorological information is contained in this report on page 3, under Weather Information.


The helicopter came to rest in a grassy area, heading about 300 degrees, on its right side. The main rotor and transmission separated from the helicopter, and were lying about 2 feet forward of the wreckage.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the forward section of the left skid struck and penetrated the front left side of the tractor. No discrepancies were observed on the airframe, transmission or engine. Flight control continuity was established to all the flight controls, including the servos.

The tractor displayed a hole in the front grill at the location where the left skid had made contact.


The helicopter was released to Wayne Bradbury, Lakeland Police Department, on February 4, 1999.

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