NYC99LA138
NYC99LA138

On June 12, 1999, at 1545 eastern daylight time, a Enstrom F-28, N9588, owned and operated by North Star Helicopters Inc, was substantially damage after the left skid contacted a rope barricade and a hovering autorotation was executed at the Blue Ash Airport, Cincinnati, Ohio. The certificated commercial pilot, and a passenger were not injured. A third passenger suffered minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the helicopter sight seeing flight. No flight plan was filed, and the flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot arrived at the operator's facility about 0800, and preflighted the helicopter. About 0900, the pilot flew as a passenger to the airshow, which was approximately 1 mile away. After arriving at the airshow, the pilot attended a safety briefing conducted by airshow coordinators. The airshow started about 1000, and the pilot started giving helicopter rides around 1030. The pilot stopped giving rides about 1245, because the airspace around the airport was being closed from 1300 to 1500 for airshow performers.

The pilot went back to the helicopter about 1445, and conducted a preflight. During the preflight, he noticed no anomalies, and resumed giving rides at 1500. The pilot estimated that he gave 4 to 6 rides prior to the accident. During that time, he did not notice any problems with the helicopter. On the accident flight, a man weighing approximately 200 pounds, and a woman weighing approximately 145 pounds were boarded. Prior to executing the takeoff, the pilot estimated he had 7 to 8 gallons of fuel onboard. In addition, he was advised by ground personnel that the helicopter was at maximum gross weight.

Facing west and pointed into the wind, the pilot brought the helicopter to a hover, then initiated the takeoff. The helicopter started to climb, but at 5 feet agl and prior to translational lift, it started to settle. The throttle was full open, and rotor rpm was in the "normal" range. The pilot felt increasing collective would cause rotor rpm to decay, so he maintained collective position. The left skid then went under a rope barricade that was connected to 55 gallon drums, and the pilot felt the helicopter decelerate and yaw to the left. He then felt a "sudden" yaw to the right, which he identified as a tailrotor malfunction. He "cut the throttle" and executed a hovering autorotation. The helicopter touchdown, the right skid collapsed, and the helicopter rolled onto its right side. The pilot felt the mainrotor contact the ground about three times before coming to a stop. The pilot then secured the fuel, electrical master, and magnetos before egressing with the assistance of airshow spectators. Both passengers were also assisted out of the helicopter.

According to the pilot, the winds were out of the west to southwest all day at 5 to 15 knots, and visibility was 3 to 4 miles in haze.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector that was at the airshow, the wind changed from southwest to the northeast about the time of the accident. After the change in wind direction, the Inspector estimated wind gusts were between 20 to 25 knots. In addition, about 15 minutes after the changed in direction, it started to rain, and airshow spectators moved for shelter.

According to a witness, the helicopter departed to the west, and reached an altitude of 15 to 20 feet agl. As the helicopter continued to accelerate the wind shifted from a headwind to a tailwind, and the helicopter settled to about 3 feet agl. The witness then heard an increase in engine noise, and saw one of the helicopter's skids snag a rope on a pedestrian barrier. The witness added that the weather was visual flight rules with gusty winds due to developing thunderstorms.

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