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On December 4, 1998, approximately 0845 mountain standard time, a Robinson Helicopter R-22 Beta II, N8340J, was destroyed following impact with wires near Deming, New Mexico. The private pilot, the sole occupant in the helicopter, was fatally injured. The helicopter was being operated by TCWH Corporation, of Deming, New Mexico, under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local animal-herding flight which originated approximately 2 hours before the accident. No flight plan had been filed.
According to the brother of the pilot, the pilot departed his home near Hachita, New Mexico, and flew north to herd cattle on one of the family's ranches near Deming. When the herding operation was completed, the pilot radioed his brother and told him that he was going to return to his home. At 0845, Columbus Electric Cooperative started receiving numerous calls about a power outage. A lineman responded, and at approximately 1000 discovered the downed helicopter.
According to the pilot's flight logbook, he received his airplane private pilot certificate single engine land, on February 14, 1980. He got his helicopter private pilot certificate on May 20, 1997, and his airplane instrument rating on September 11, 1998. His flight logbook indicated that he had flown 160 hours during the last 90 days before the accident, of which 144 hours was in N8340J.
The aircraft was a two seat helicopter which was manufactured by Robinson Helicopter Company, in 1996. It was certificated for a maximum gross takeoff weight of 1,370 pounds. The helicopter was powered by a Textron Lycoming O-360-J2A, four cylinder, reciprocating horizontally opposed, carbureted engine which had a maximum takeoff rating of 131 horsepower. At the accident site, the engine's tachometer time was 805 hours.
At 1050, the weather conditions at the Deming Municipal Airport (elevation 4,309 feet), 060 degrees for 14 nautical miles (nm) from the accident site, were as follows: wind 260 degrees for 6 knots; visibility 50 sm; scattered clouds at 12,000 feet; temperature 59 degrees F.; dew point 36 degrees F.; altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury. At 0845, the sun altitude was 18 degrees above the horizon, and its azimuth was 133 degrees east of north.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The helicopter's impact site (N32 degrees 11.99 minutes, W107 degrees 59.08 minutes, elevation 4,370 feet) was on hard, level, desert, terrain, located approximately 240 degrees for 14 nm from Deming. A power transmission line, oriented 085 by 265 degrees, was found with damaged insulation (see photographs). From under the damaged wire, helicopter debris extended 220 degrees for approximately 140 feet to the main fuselage. The main fuselage was found on its right side with vertical crushing signatures extending through approximately 40 percent the right half of the cabin area (see photographs).
The collective control handle was found in the full up position.
The helicopter's left forward strut had an approximate 1.5 inch gouge in it, located approximately 6 inches from the fuselage. The strut's paint was removed in a straight line extending to the landing skid. The left landing skid tubing had perpendicular scratches from the strut forward. The landing skid tube's tip cap was separated from the skid, and was found on the ground, immediately below the transmission wire damage.
On January 5, 1999, a post-salvage engine examination and test run were conducted at Air Transport, in Phoenix, Arizona. The engine was successfully started and was run at various power settings from idle to full power. No operational discrepancies were found with the engine or the engine's components.
All major components of the helicopter were accounted for at the accident scene. There was no evidence of pre or postimpact fire. No preimpact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the helicopter's performance, were identified.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy on the pilot was performed by Dr. Marcus Nashelsky, a forensic pathologist, with the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine's Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on December 5, 1998.
Toxicology tests were performed on the pilot by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to CAMI's report (#9800332001), the pilot's carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were found to be negative. The pilot's urine glucose level was 760 mg/dl, which Dr. Canfield, an FAA physician with CAMI, stated was abnormal. He further stated that "elevated glucose levels can be caused by diabetes mellitus or can also be caused by emergency medical treatment, strenuous exercise, strong emotion, shock, and burns."
TEST AND RESEARCH
The Columbus Electric Cooperative, Inc., Deming, New Mexico, determined that the power poles were approximately 470 feet apart and 35 feet tall. They further determined that, at the mid point between the poles, the top energized wire was 25 feet 3 inches above the ground, and the bottom neutral wire was 24 feet 2 inches above the ground. The damage to the upper wire was found approximately mid distance between the poles. Postimpact examination of the wires revealed that the upper damaged wire was sagging below the neutral wire, or approximately 22 feet above the ground.
The helicopter, including all components and logbooks, was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on April 9, 1999.