CHI98LA021
CHI98LA021

On October 14, 1997, at 2126 central daylight time, a Schweizer 269C, N557DC, operated by the University of North Dakota, and flown by a private pilot collided with a utility pole while making a precautionary landing in Grand Forks, North Dakota, while on a solo training flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The helicopter was substantially damaged and the pilot was not injured. The solo instructional flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from Park Rapids, Minnesota, at 2000.

The pilot reported the accident occurred on the last leg of a cross country flight. He said he was 9.5 miles from his destination of Grand Forks when the low fuel warning light came on. He reported that he knew he was low on fuel according to the fuel gauge prior to the light coming. He declared an emergency with the Air Traffic Control Facility at Grand Forks, stating that he was going to land close to Highway 81. The pilot reported that the warning light went off as he initiated a descent. He reported that he informed the controller of the situation and that he was still intending on making an off airport landing.

The pilot reported he continued toward the highway looking for a driveway on which to land. He turned the helicopter into the wind and started "descending again at a shallow angle when the aircraft had a sudden yaw to the right." He reported that he suspected an engine failure so he initiated a hovering autorotation. When he pulled the collective, he heard the engine "rev-up" and the helicopter climbed. He realized he still had engine power so he "got control of the aircraft and landed it." It was after the landing that a local resident informed the pilot that he contacted an electrical wire which ran across the nearby road.

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