On September 13, 1997, at 1516 hours Pacific daylight time, a homebuilt experimental Lampert M500 helicopter, N800GL, crashed on the taxiway following a loss of engine power on approach to the San Carlos, California, airport. The aircraft sustained substantial damage, and the pilot, the sole occupant, incurred minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was on file. The local area personal flight departed San Carlos at 1500 and was terminating at the time of the accident.

In a recorded statement to the FAA, the pilot reported that he was inbound to the airport and was asked to hold short of a taxi way to avoid oncoming traffic. The pilot held the helicopter in a hover and complied with the hold short instructions. He said that at that time, "my engine went silent, the engine RPM dropped to zero, and the aircraft began to drop rapidly." The aircraft landed hard on its right skid and rolled over on its right side. The tail rotor driveshaft separated from the main transmission, and the T-tail separated from the vertical fin.

In his written report, the pilot stated that he "could have denied a straight-in [approach] from the shoreline and entered a left-hand pattern to runway or taxiway 30 at the traffic pattern altitude thus allowing the chance of successfully deploying autorotation technique rather than the low flight with slight tailwind component thus being caught in the 'Dead Man's Curve'." The pilot also reported that on entering the autorotation he made a "slight cyclic maneuver into the wind to gain energy in the main rotors." He said that he was, "so low that I might have smacked my tail rotor when executing this maneuver."

Witnesses stated that they observed the helicopter at about 20 feet agl when they heard the engine abruptly cease. They reported then seeing the pilot release the collective control with his left hand and apply full aft cyclic with both hands. The helicopter then pitched up to an approximately 45-degree angle while simultaneously falling.

Initial inspection of the aircraft at the accident site revealed that the fuel tanks were approximately 1/2 full. The helicopter and the powerplant were examined by a certified airframe and powerplant mechanic and a airworthiness inspector from the San Jose Flight Standards District Office. No discrepancies were noted during the examination. The engine was not seized and the spark plugs fired in order with hand rotation of the crankshaft. Fuel was found in the fuel tank and the carburetor bowl. A review of the carburetor icing probability chart disclosed that icing conditions were not present at the time of the accident.

According to FAA Airman Records, the pilot does not hold a rotorcraft category rating. No evidence was found that the pilot was endorsed for solo flight in rotorcraft within the last 90 days.

Repeated attempts were made to contact the pilot to schedule further aircraft inspection with no response. The aircraft was moved from the hangar and the owner has declined to provide its location.

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