On May 31, 1993, about 1700 central daylight time, a Robinson R22 helicopter, N44227, sustained substantial damage during takeoff from Woodlake Landing Airport, Sandwich, Illinois. The solo, fixed-wing only student pilot was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight.

The pilot wrote in his report to the NTSB: "As owner of the helicopter, I was informed by the instructor of a possible magneto problem. I went outside to look at the helicopter. I got in and started the engine and checked both left and right mags. I saw no excessive drop. I lowered the RPM. I then engaged the blades to see if that would make a difference. After the blades started turning, there was a vibration, which caused me to buckle the safety belt. I then put my hand on the collective to bring the engine up to the green on the RPM gauge. I took my hand off the collective to lean over to view the gauge and switch magnetos. The next thing I knew a big gust of wind came up and took the helicopter into the air. The collective had obviously come up on its own. I then tried to put the collective down and the helicopter came down on its side and rolled blades first. I then crawled out from the wreckage. There was no intent to fly the machine on my part, just to check magnetos."

The student pilot's prior flight experience and solo endorsement was for single engine, fixed-wing airplanes only.

The Sandwich Police Department dispatched an officer to the accident site. That officer wrote in his accident report: "Mike Austin stated he took the helicopter up to do some hovering. The helicopter then got caught in some strong winds, and Mike tried to compensate for the winds, but over compensated. The helicopter blade then struck the ground, causing the helicopter to crash."

A telephone interview with the instructor who last flew the helicopter, and a written statement from an FAA inspector who also interviewed the instructor, revealed the instructor recalls securing the friction lock tightly on the collective prior to leaving the helicopter.

A diagram of the wreckage site (attached) indicates the helicopter crashed approximately 200 yards south of the point of liftoff.

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