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On June 19, 1993, at 0733 Pacific daylight time, a Hughes 269A helicopter, N9048R, touched down hard on the runway, bounced, rolled over and burned at the Las Vegas Henderson Sky Harbor (uncontrolled) Airport, Henderson, Nevada. The helicopter, which was operated by Kismet of Las Vegas, Nevada, was destroyed, and the private pilot was fatally injured. The passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the local area personal proficiency flight.
The passenger held a pilot certificate endorsed for solo operation of the accident helicopter. Prior to taking off, she and the pilot had performed a preflight inspection of the helicopter. The pilot removed the helicopter's doors and then they departed Sky Harbor at 0700.
The passenger indicated that during the initial portion of the flight the helicopter operated normally, and the pilot may have practiced an autorotation. The passenger further reported that on short final approach for another landing, engine power was suddenly lost. The passenger did not recall detecting any warning of the power loss. The passenger indicated that when she observed the Engine and Rotor Tachometer Indicator, the engine RPM needle point was located about one inch (lateral distance) left of the main rotor RPM needle point. Both needles indicated that an "out of range" (split needle) condition existed. The passenger further recalled that the engine RPM was decreasing, and she observed the needle positioned at 2200 RPM.
One ground-based witness reported observing the helicopter during its final minutes of flight. According to the witness, the helicopter maintained altitude while flying in the downwind and base legs. When the helicopter turned onto the final approach leg, it suddenly began descending at a rapid rate. The witness described the descent as being at a constant rate and at a 45 degree angle. The descent continued until the helicopter crashed. Prior to the crash, there was no evidence of fire.
The accident occurred at longitude 115 degrees 7 minutes west by latitude 35 degrees 58 minutes north.
According to the Clark County Coroner's Office, the pilot had two identities. A review of the pilot's airman and medical records, on file with the Federal Aviation Administration, revealed that the pilot was issued pilot and medical certificates under both names, with different social security numbers and dates of birth used for each name.
In June of 1972, the pilot was issued a Private Pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. At that time, the pilot's indicated date of birth was January 9, 1941, and his listed Social Security Number (SSN) was 378385611. The FAA issued the pilot Airman Certificate Number 2174936.
By March of 1975, the pilot had been issued instrument-airplane and multi engine land ratings. The pilot's reported total flight time experience was 995 hours.
In January of 1979, the pilot was issued a rotorcraft-helicopter rating. The flight test was performed using a Hughes 269A helicopter. The pilot reported his total airplane and rotorcraft flight time was 1767 and 27 hours, respectively.
In 1981, the pilot, using a different name, birth date, and SSN, completed the requirements for the issuance of another private pilot certificate. The pilot reported that his total flight experience was 50 hours. The FAA issued the certificate to the applicant who listed his date of birth as April 30, 1938, and his SSN as 363064934.
The pilot continued using two names, birth dates, and SSNs on FAA aviation medical application forms during the following approximate ten-year long period. Depending upon the name used, his indicated total pilot flight time was listed between 8 and 2000+ hours under SSN 363064934 (between 1981 and 1992). Under SSN 378385611, his indicated total pilot time varied between 2500 and 3000+ hours (between 1983 and 1990).
The helicopter operator reported that no current personal flight record log book was found for the pilot. Regarding the pilot's recent flight experience, the certified flight instructor who had flown with the pilot on January 20, 1992, reported that the pilot satisfactorily completed a Biennial Flight Review in the accident helicopter. The duration of the flight was 1.7 hours.
A review of the helicopter's utilization logs indicated that, thereafter, the pilot flew the helicopter on March 10, 1992. The flight lasted for 1.3 hours. The instructor pilot reported that he believed the logs accurately reflected the persons using the helicopter. He stated that during the six month period which preceded the crash, the pilot's only helicopter flying experience, if any, would have been obtained using the accident helicopter. The accident helicopter's utilization logs did not reveal evidence of the pilot having flown the helicopter after the aforementioned March 1992 date.
According to the instructor pilot, who was teaching the passenger to fly the accident helicopter, he and his student last flew the helicopter on June 17, two days before the crash. During the flight, the helicopter operated normally and no discrepancies were noted. Regarding the engine, the instructor pilot stated that the magnetos checked out "OK," and he further described the helicopter as being "in great shape."
According to information published in the Hughes 269A Owner's Manual, the Engine and Rotor Tachometer Indicator bore, in pertinent part, the following instrument markings:
ENGINE TACHOMETER---Red radial lines at 2700 and 2900 RPM; Green Arc extending from 1200 to 1600, and from 2700 to 2900 RPM; Yellow Arc extending from 1950 to 2350 RPM.
ROTOR TACHOMETER---Red radial lines at 400 and 530 RPM; Green Arc extending from 400 to 530 RPM.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION:
From an examination of the accident site, helicopter wreckage, and witness statements, the helicopter began rapidly descending when it was on short final approach to Runway 36. The descent was not arrested, and the helicopter touched down hard on the runway.
All of the wreckage was found on the runway, and was principally scattered along a track parallel to and left of the centerline. The touchdown point (initial point of impact (IPI)) was found about 15 feet left of the runway's centerline strip, and about 385 feet north of the runway's threshold. The impact mark consisted of a transfer (smear) of white paint onto the runway's asphalt surface. During the subsequent examination of wreckage, the helicopter's tail stinger was examined. It was observed to be abraded and bore white colored paint.
Two tail rotor blade-like gouge marks were found within a 16 foot distance to the north of the IPI. The gouge marks were about two inches long by one inch wide, and were three-quarters of an inch deep. The main wreckage was found about 134 feet north of the IPI. The farthest piece of wreckage located was found approximately 238 feet north of the IPI. This wreckage consisted of a separated main rotor blade.
Evidence was observed of a post-impact fire in the vicinity of the main wreckage. The fire destroyed the cockpit and most of the structure in the vicinity of the ruptured fuel tank (see photographs).
The main rotor blades were found coned in an upward direction, and they exhibited almost no leading or trailing edge damage. No evidence was found of preimpact failures with the pitch change links, control tubes, swash plate, or the tail rotor assembly.
The airframe and engine were recovered from the crash site and were further examined by the Safety Board along with participants from the airframe and engine manufacturer. The airframe manufacturer's representative found no evidence of any pre-impact failures involving the drive train or control system. The engine manufacturer's representative reported that no evidence was observed of any pre-impact rotating or reciprocating component failure. (See the Wreckage Diagram and the participants' reports for additional information.)
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION:
On June 19, 1993, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Clark County Coroner's Office. In the opinion of the medical examiner, the pilot's death was the "result of inhalation of products of combustion." The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeromedical Institute performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory's manager, no evidence was found of ethanol or other drugs in the pilot's urine or blood. (See attached toxicology report for additional details.)
The entire helicopter wreckage was released to the owner's assigned insurance adjuster on July 12, 1993.