DEN00TA042
DEN00TA042

On January 11, 2000, at 1215 mountain standard time, a Bell OH-58C, N31JA, registered to and operated by the Jicarilla Apache Police Department, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain during an autorotation to landing near Lindrith, New Mexico. The commercial pilot and two passengers were not injured, and one passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the public use flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from a remote fueling site near Dulce, New Mexico, at 1000.

According to the pilot, he was conducting an annual game survey with three employees of the Jicarilla Game and Fish Department. He had been airborne for approximately 2 hours, and was planning to return for fuel. He was flying on an easterly heading at 35 knots and about 100 feet above ground level (agl), and the wind was calm. The pilot stated that he initiated a shallow right hand turn and the aircraft started an unanticipated right yaw. He applied left pedal to counteract the movement, but the right yaw continued and accelerated. Left pedal was applied to the stop "with no effect." He lowered collective to reduce the torque and the aircraft began to spin to the right. He closed the throttle to the flight idle position to reduce torque on the airframe. The aircraft continued to spin and as it was approaching the ground, he pulled the collective control back to cushion the landing. The helicopter impacted the top of a pinion tree and came to rest on its right side. After impact with the ground, the engine continued to run.

The day following the accident, an FAA maintenance inspector performed an inspection of the tail rotor system. According to him, he examined the integrity of the tail rotor system up to the point of where it was sheared from the transmission, and no discrepancies were found.

According to the pilot, the elevation at the accident site was 7,000 feet above mean sea level (msl). Using the temperature the pilot reported to be 4 degrees C. (40 degrees F.) and the reported altimeter setting of 30.03 inches of mercury at Farmington, located 70 nautical miles to the northwest, the density altitude was calculated to be 7,240 feet above msl.

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