MIA96LA144
MIA96LA144

On May 31, 1996, about 1030 eastern daylight time, a Bell UH1B, helicopter, N3880A, registered to Colony Services Inc., operating as a 14 CFR Part 137, aerial application flight, crashed in the vicinity of West Palm Beach, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The helicopter was substantially damaged, and the commercial pilot was not injured.

The pilot stated, that while refueling the helicopter he and his crew saw smoke coming from the "hell hole" on the bottom of the helicopter. They could not determine where the smoke was coming from, so the pilot elected to reposition the helicopter away from the fuel pad.

After lift off, there was a "loud pop" and the helicopter immediately started rotating to the right. In an effort to avoid striking the fuel tank the pilot added power, and the wind carried the helicopter across the top of the tank. The spinning rotation increased, and after crossing the fuel tank the pilot reduced power. As the helicopter started to come around, and get closer to the ground, it went backwards and struck a tree. After impact with the ground the helicopter rolled on its left side.

Examination of the helicopter revealed that the tail rotor, cable retaining pin, came loose, and had rubbed against the tail rotor shaft, subsequently causing the drive shaft to fail.

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