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On September 30, 1993, at 1410 mountain daylight time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N2360B, sustained substantial damage during takeoff when it impacted the terrain near Deming, New Mexico. The commercial pilot and the pilot rated passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross country ferry flight.
The flight originally departed Torrance, California, on September 29, 1993, and was en route to Pacific, Missouri. A refueling stop was made at Deming, New Mexico, where 24.2 gallons filled the tank. Deming Flight Service Station (enclosed statement) issued the winds, altimeter setting, and the density altitude statement "check density altitude." On the enclosed statement, the pilot reported "when I attempted to hover with the throttle governor turned on that the governor did not add throttle quickly enough when I picked up the aircraft to a hover to keep it from settling back to the ground."
The pilot further stated that in an effort to learn more about how the throttle governor worked in high density altitude situations, he "made a number of pick-ups and forward hover-taxi maneuvers allowing the governor to attempt to control the throttle." In each attempt the aircraft settled back to the ground. The pilot then decided to turn the optional governor off and use manual throttle control for takeoff. The pilot reported that on takeoff the aircraft passed through translational lift and climbed to 50 feet above the ground and then suddenly lost power and altitude.
During personal interviews, witnesses reported to the investigator in charge that the helicopter was observed making several take off attempts from the ramp area prior to climbing out of ground effect. Witnesses stated that the helicopter skipped along the taxiway and did not rise out of ground effect. They observed the helicopter from six inches to two feet above the ramp trying to go forward. On two occasions the helicopter's skids impacted the ramp; it rocked forward causing the main rotor blades to almost strike the ground and each time the helicopter settled backwards to the ramp. The helicopter was observed attempting to take off from the ramp area for approximately 12 minutes. Witnesses reported that the helicopter finally took off to an altitude of approximately 50 feet above the ground and then made a right turn, followed by a descent to the ground.
The actual weight of baggage and the estimated weights of the pilot and passenger resulted in a gross weight of 1,457.3 pounds.
According to manufacturer's specifications maximum allowable gross weight was 1,370 pounds. Performance data indicated a maximum pressure altitude of 5,800 feet for an in-ground-effect hover at maximum gross weight.
According to the helicopter manufacturer data (enclosed), the pilot had 570 hours of R22 flight experience as of September 22, 1993. He had completed the manufacturer's required training program in July, 1990, and since then had ferried several helicopters for them.
At 1950 mountain daylight time the Deming, New Mexico, surface observation indicated a temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit with the winds from 150 degrees at 5 knots. Based on the field elevation and given weather conditions the density altitude was computed as being 6,600 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION:
Numerous skid marks were identified on the concrete ramp paralleling runway 5/22. The skid marks extended for approximately 485 feet over the length and width of the ramp. The helicopter impacted an area of sand and brush, coming to rest on a measured magnetic heading of 045 degrees approximately 1,200 feet west of the ramp area (enclosed wreckage diagram).
An inspection of the helicopter revealed that flight control and engine continuity existed. The throttle control was found full "ON", clutch engaged, governor off, mixture rich, collective down and the cyclic aft and to the right. Tachometer read 28.4 hours.
The helicopter was released to the owner's representative following the investigation.