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On September 27, 1997, at 1200 eastern daylight time, a Fairchild Hiller FH-1100, N5045F, was destroyed when it collided with terrain during landing at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The certificated commercial pilot/owner (first pilot) sustained serious injuries, and the certificated flight instructor (second pilot) was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The local, demonstration, biennial flight review flight originated at Pittsfield, and was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The first pilot reported that the purpose of the flight was to demonstrate the helicopter to a prospective buyer, and the prospective buyer would give him his biennial flight review, that would have expired after 3 days. He had used the helicopter previously for a scenic ride business in the local area. He said he completed a preflight inspection, and a walk around inspection with the second pilot, before they departed on a local flight over the city.
On their return from the local area, the first pilot said they made an approach to the grassy area near runway 32, and successfully completed hovering autorotations. He said he discussed the procedures for an autorotation with the second pilot, and proceeded to demonstrate the maneuver.
The first pilot proceeded to climb to 800 feet AGL, and circled once to get set up to start the autorotation at 80 mph. He said:
"...I lowered the collective and rolled off the throttle to split the needles and noticed the needles did not split. I immediately rolled off more throttle to split the needles and noticed the rotor RPM's in the low green area. I felt a thumping and we were dropping fast, airspeed was 45-50 mph and I said...I need help with this. I had no response at all from him [second pilot]and no help on the controls...the whole thing seemed like 5 seconds before we crashed into the banking of the swamp at the end of the airport... ."
The airport manager said he overheard a conversation between the first pilot and a flight instructor, that the first pilot was expecting a prospective buyer shortly, and that the buyer was going to give him his biennial flight review. The manager said that the prospective buyer arrived, and he saw the helicopter depart the airport traffic pattern toward the downtown area.
The manager said that he observed the helicopter several minutes later on a 1 mile to 1.5 mile right base to runway 32. He stated:
"...I watched the helo as it turned approximately a 1 mile final at an altitude I would estimate to be 800 feet above ground level, and at a normal 'forward' speed, while descending. At approximately 1/2 mile final the aircraft's forward speed slowed and the descent rate increased, while the helo's attitude appeared to 'flare out' to varying degree(s). The helo continued to lose forward speed while the descent rate increased until I lost sight of the craft below terrain at the approach end of runway 32.
Upon my arrival at the scene, the cyclic[first pilot's] was located at a full back and centered position, and the collective appeared to be in the full up position. The cyclic [second pilot] ... appeared to be broken off on the left side... ."
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 42 degrees, 25 minutes north latitude, and 73 degrees, and 17 minutes west longitude.
The first pilot held a commercial pilot's certificate, with a rating for rotorcraft helicopter. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Second Class Medical Certificate was issued on June 10, 1997.
He reported over 752 hours of total flight experience, which included 499 hours in this make and model. He had completed a biennial flight review in a Hiller UH-12 on September 30, 1995.
The second pilot held a commercial pilot's certificate, with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument airplane. He also possessed a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single and multiengine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Second Class Medical Certificate was issued during July 1996.
The second pilot reported over 22,000 hours of total flight experience on his Second Class Medical Certificate application in 1996. According to the pilot's wife, he had several log books. A review of the log books submitted to the Safety Board revealed that the pilot logged over 5,186 hours of helicopter time, during the period 1961 through 1997, including 4 hours in the accident aircraft make and model dated November 1967. Since his biennial review, which he received in a Cessna 150 on October 29, 1995, he logged over 150 hours of helicopter time, which included 138 hours in a Bell 47G2, and 12 hours in a Bell 206A.
At 1156 eastern daylight time, Albany County Airport, Albany, New York, located about 35 statute miles northwest of the accident site issued the following observation:
Sky condition, clear; visibility, 10 statute miles; temperature, 55 degrees Fahrenheit (F); dew point, 43 degrees F; winds, calm; and altimeter, 30.21 inches Hg.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The helicopter wreckage was examined at the accident site on September 28, 1997. The examination revealed that all major components of the helicopter were accounted for at the scene, and it came to rest against a bank rising from a swamp, on an approximate magnetic bearing of 320 degrees.
Examination of the wreckage revealed the helicopter was sitting upright, partially submerged in about 2-3 feet of water.
The helicopter was removed from the swamp to a hangar where it was further examined. The underside of the helicopter exhibited upward crushing signature marks. Control continuity was established from the pilot's collective and cyclic control, to the main rotor system. The left collective and left cyclic were broken.
Control continuity was not established from the pilot's anti-torque pedals to the tail boom, due to a bend in the tail boom. The tail rotor was intact, and the tail rotor blades were straight.
Drive train continuity was established from the engine, through the drive belts, to the main transmission.
One of the main rotor blades was straight, and the other blade was bent downward midspan.
Continuity was confirmed from the cockpit throttle to the fuel control unit. The main drive shaft (short shaft) was undamaged. The engine was removed from the wreckage and sent to Allison Engine Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, for further examination.
The engine examination was conducted under the supervision of the National Transportation Safety Board, on December 10, 1997. The engine was test run, and it operated satisfactory.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the second pilot, on September 28, 1997, by Dr Jon Valigorsky, Medical Examiner, of the Berkshire County Coroners Office, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Toxicological testing was conducted on the second pilot, by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
According to FAR Part 61.56 Flight review, it stated in part:
"A flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight instruction and 1 hour of ground instruction. The review must include- (1) A review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91, and (2) A review of those maneuvers and procedures which, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate... ."
According to FAR Part 61.193 Flight Instructor authorizations, it stated in part:
"The holder of a flight instructor certificate is authorized, within the limitations of his instructor certificate and ratings, to give--...the flight review required in 61.56... ."
According to FAR Part 61.195 Flight Instructor Limitations, it stated in part:
"The holder of a flight instructor certificate is subject to the following limitations: ...He may not give flight instruction required for the issuance of a certificate or a category, or class rating, in a multi-engine airplane or helicopter, unless he has at least 5 hours of experience as pilot in command in the make and model of that airplane or helicopter, as the case may be... ."
The helicopter wreckage was released on November 18, 1998, to Kevin Olsen, a representative of the owners insurance company.