ATL01LA003
ATL01LA003

On October 3, 2000, at 0856 central daylight time, a University of Alabama Mini-500 Experimental Helicopter, N6165T, collided with the ground and burst into flames while on approach to the Tuscaloosa Municipal Airport, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The helicopter was operated by the airline transport pilot, who had commercial helicopter privileges, under the provisions of Title 14, CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The pilot received fatal injuries, and the helicopter was destroyed. The flight originated from the Tuscaloosa, Municipal Airport, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at 0840.

According to the airport control tower operator, the helicopter had completed three to four circuits in closed traffic to taxiway golf. While on the downwind leg, the controller believed that the helicopter had a sudden loss of engine power and began to descend. The tower received no communications and the helicopters rotor rpm decreased and appeared to stop before impact. Crash fire rescue trucks were on the scene and the post-crash fire was extinguished within minutes.

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate for single engine land airplane, and a commercial certificate for single engine sea airplane, multiengine land airplane and helicopter. He also held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single and multiengine instrument airplanes. The pilot also held a repairman experimental aircraft builder certificate. His last medical certificate, a second class, was issued on July 26, 1999. It held the limitation that the pilot must wear corrective lenses in order to exercise the privileges of the airman's certificate. The pilot reported on his last medical that his total civilian flight hours were 2,700.

The helicopter was assembled and inspected on April 4, 2000, and had accumulated a total time of 16 hours of flight time at the time of the accident. According to the aircraft logbook, on September 28, 2000, the pilot had modified the helicopters horizontal stabilizer by cutting off part of the stabilizer behind mounting plates number 88 and number 98, and removed the winglets. The pilot flew 10 traffic patterns in new configuration. He noted in the logbook "less objectionable side to side shaking, but balance still indicates vertical 1.5 ips in climb." However, according to the FAA, this modification was not approved as required by the experimental aircraft operating limitations. Additionally, the helicopter was powered by a Rotax 582 engine. In the engine operator's Manual under section 9, entitled Danger! States in part that "This engine, by its design, is subject to sudden stoppage! Engine stoppage can result in crash landings. Such crash landings can lead to serious bodily injury or death."

A toxicology examination was performed by the FAA's Toxicological and Accident Research Laboratory. There was no carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol or drugs detected in the blood or vitreous.

An NTSB Pilot/Operator Report was sent on October 11, 2000, to the University of Alabama and received on October 16, 2000, but was not completed and returned at the time of this report.

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