SEA00LA103
SEA00LA103

On June 8, 2000, approximately 1330 Pacific daylight time, an Enstrom F-28C helicopter, N80193, settled into trees while engaged in aerial drying of cherry trees (hovering over the trees) near Kennewick, Washington. The helicopter was substantially damaged in the occurrence; however, the commercial pilot-in-command (who owned the helicopter) and a passenger were not injured. No flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR 91 work use flight, and the departure point and destination of the flight were not determined. Visual meteorological conditions were reported at Tri-Cities Airport, Pasco, Washington (approximately 4 nautical miles north of Kennewick) at 1253 and 1353.

The pilot did not report this accident to the NTSB or submit NTSB Form 6120.1/2 (Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report.) The accident was reported to the NTSB by the FAA Spokane, Washington, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) on June 13, 2000. A report of the incident prepared by the Benton County, Washington, Sheriff's Office and submitted to the NTSB indicated that both aircraft occupants told responding law enforcement personnel that while hovering over the cherry orchard, the helicopter suddenly started to lose power. The pilot told deputies that "the chopper's engine did not quit...it just started to lose power." The occupants told the deputies that the pilot then tried to fly the helicopter to an open field to the east of the orchard to land, but was unable to make this field. The occupants reported that the pilot then landed the aircraft in between the rows of trees. The pilot, who stated he was hovering about 5 to 7 feet above the tops of the trees when the helicopter came down, stated to deputies that he did not know what the problem was with the helicopter, but that he had filled up with fuel at nearby Vista Airfield (in Kennewick) about 45 minutes prior to the accident.

An FAA report on the accident (dated July 10, 2000), prepared by an inspector from the Spokane FSDO and provided to the NTSB, stated:

...[the pilot] STATED THAT HE EXPERIENCED WHAT APPEARED TO BE A LOSS OF POWER. DURING SUBSEQUENT INVESTIGATION HE LATER CONCLUDED THAT HE HAD MANEUVERED THE HELICOPTER INTO A DOWNWIND POSITION AND HAD APPROACHED THE HOVERING CAPABILITY OF THE HELICOPTER (capitalized in original)....

According to the FAA airman registry, the date of issue of the pilot's commercial pilot certificate was February 21, 2000. The FAA inspector's report gave the pilot's total flight time as 400 hours, with 300 in make and model and 100 in the last 90 days. The FAA report stated that the pilot had also successfully completed a flight instructor checkride in April 2000 and that "THE PILOT'S OVERALL COMPETENCY IS NOT IN QUESTION, HOWEVER, HE DEMONSTRATED A LACK OF EXPERIENCE IN OPERATING THE HELICOPTER AT THE CRITICAL HOVERING ALTITUDE NECESSARY TO CONDUCT THE KIND OF OPERATION HE WAS ATTEMPTING" (capitalized in original).

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