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On May 1, 2000, approximately 1810 mountain daylight time, a McDonnell Douglas 369E, N1606K, registered to and operated by Winco, Inc., of Molalla, Oregon, struck a static line and impacted terrain 6 miles southeast of Bloomfield, New Mexico. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at a nearby staging area approximately 1800.
According to company personnel and other sources, the helicopter had been used for fiber optic cable installation support operations along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor earlier that day. The helicopter landed next to a company fuel truck at a job site approximately 20 miles south-southeast of Farmington, New Mexico, and approximately 12 miles west-southwest of the accident site. There the helicopter was refueled. The pilot told the driver he and his passenger were returning to Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington. Shortly after it departed, an oilfield worker, investigating the source of a smoke plume, found the burning wreckage of the helicopter and notified authorities. A severed power line was found nearby.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at a location of 36 degrees, 60.46 minutes north latitude, and 107 degrees 93.66 minutes west longitude, at an elevation of 5,500 feet msl (above mean sea level).
PERSONNEL (CREW) INFORMATION
The pilot, age 48, held a commercial pilot certificate, dated May 16, 1990, with airplane single engine land and sea, and rotorcraft-helicopter ratings. He was also type rated in the Sikorsky SK-58 (VFR only). He held a second class airman medical certificate, dated April 4, 2000, with no restrictions or limitations. His biennial flight review was dated October 2, 1998.
According to the helicopter operator, Winco, Inc., the pilot had logged the following flight time: Total time, 20,478 hours; pilot-in-command, 20,128 hours; rotorcraft, 12,377 hours; time in make/model, 2,146 hours. He was not military trained. Company records, updated on February 15, 2000, showed the following: Total time, 20, 478 hours; pilot-in-command, 20,128 hours; MD-500, 1,596 hours; Bell UH-1, 5,477 hours; Bell 206, 647 hours; Bell 47, 402 hours; Sikorsky S-55, 2,063 hours; Sikorsky S-58, 1,642 hours
According to the pilot's last application for medical certification, he estimated his total flight time to be 21,500 hours, 475 hours of which were accrued in the previous 6 months.
N1606K (s/n 0331E), a model 369E, was manufactured by McDonnell Douglas Helicopters (formerly Hughes, now Boeing) in 1989. It was equipped with an Allison (now Rolls Royce) 250-C20R/2 turboshaft engine (s/n CAE 295241), rated at 485 shaft horsepower (shp), derated to 450 shp.
According to the maintenance records, both the airframe and engine had accrued 2,320 hours, and 45 hours since the last annual and 100-hour inspections (at 2,275 hours).
Weather recorded at Farmington (FMN), located about 23 miles northwest of the accident site, was as follows:
2353Z (1753 MDT); WIND 240 DEGREES AT 7 KNOTS; VISIBILITY 10 MILES OR GREATER; SKY CONDITION CLEAR; TEMPERATURE 21 DEGREES C. (69.8 DEGREES F.); DEW POINT 27 DEGREES C. (-3 DEGREES C.); ALTIMETER 30.07 INCHES OF MERCURY.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A severed static line, spanning a dry river bed in Kutz Canyon, was found 508 feet from the helicopter. According to the Farmington Electric Utility System, two poles (one on a 75-foot hill on the west side) were 1,800 feet apart and supported the static line and two other EHS (extra high strength) power lines (3/8-inch thick). Each power line, which remained intact, provided 8,000-volt service to oil and gas fields in the area. No residential consumers were affected. The utility company estimated the height of the static line, at the point where it was severed, to be 39 feet. At that point, the power lines were estimated to be 35 feet above the ground.
The main body of wreckage lay 508 feet from the severed static line. The direction was 335 degrees magnetic. There was a postimpact fire that consumed the cabin area. Between the severed static line and main body of wreckage lay the rotor hub and four of the five (red, yellow, green, blue) main rotor blades. One (white) main rotor blade separated from the mast and was located 600 feet northwest of the impact point. Drive train continuity was established between the engine and rotor mast. All main rotor blades exhibited midspan rotational damage and "chatter" marks.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy (#2608-00) was performed by the New Mexico State Medical Examiner's Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on May 2, 2000.
In addition, toxicological screens were performed by the Medical Examiner's Office (#2608-500-11SJ) and FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to CAMI's report (#200000094001), no carbon monoxide, cyanide, or ethnol was detected in the pilot's blood, but tetrahydrocannabinol (marijuana) and tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (primary inactive metabolite) were detected in the blood, lung, and bile (see docket exhibits).
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation included Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas and Hughes) Helicopters, Rolls-Royce (formerly Allied-Signal and Allison) Engines, and Winco, Inc.
The wreckage was released to the insurance company's representative on May 2, 2000.