On April 27, 1997, at 1145 central daylight time (cdt), a Hughes 269A, N1040S, registered to Iowa Western Comm College, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, sustained substantial damage after the helicopter lost control and impacted terrain while practicing hover to autorotation maneuvering. The certified flight instructor and student pilot reported no injuries. The instructional 14 CFR Part 91 flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions. No flight plan was on file. The flight departed Council Bluffs, Iowa, at 1145 cdt.

According to the certified flight instructor's (CFI) written statement, he was conducting a series of practice hover to autorotation maneuvers for the student pilot. The CFI let the student pilot try the next two autorotation maneuvers which went well for the student, who had only approximately 9.5 hours. But on the third maneuver, the student pilot put in the correct amount of right rudder and applied an increase of collective input approximately one foot above the ground. The student did not make any abrupt cyclic inputs and as the skids touchdown the helicopter rolled towards the left and forward.

According to the student pilot's written statement, he said as he was performing the third hover to autorotation maneuver "The power had been cut; the aircraft was descending nearly straight down as expected. We were straight into the wind and the aircraft was not yawing. My perception is that the left skid touched first and did not move at all. It was as if it just stuck to the ground. At that instant I was aware of a banging noise and the left skid broke. When this happened, the helicopter nosed over towards the left front and the rotor blades struck the ground."

Examination the left skid revealed an overload fracture originating from outboard towards the inboard skid located at the junction to the undercarriage. The Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) states for an engine failure below seven feet, a power failure is indicated by a sudden yawing of the aircraft to the left. Do not reduce collective pitch. Apply right pedal to prevent excessive yawing. Apply collective pitch as necessary in order to cushion landing. All autorotation maneuvers were conducted at a three foot hover.

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