On April 3, 2001, at 1430 eastern daylight time, a Bell OH-58A helicopter, N921MC, collided with the ground during an autorotation following the loss of engine power near Lakeland, Florida. The maintenance test flight was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The helicopter sustained substantial damage, and the commercial pilot was not injured. The flight departed Lakeland, Florida, at 1415 hours.

This was the first flight following the completion of a maintenance inspection. According to the pilot, he followed the manufacturers normal operating checklist and began a test flight. Approximately 2 minutes after takeoff, the engine lost power and quit during cruise flight. The pilot initiated an autorotation for an emergency landing; the tail boom assembly was damaged during the emergency landing.

Examination of the helicopter revealed that the fuel valve switch was still in the OFF position. It was discovered that the fuel valve had been switched OFF during the last maintenance inspection. The pilot stated he did not check the position of the fuel valve prior to takeoff. The thru-flight checklist used in the helicopter ,TM-55-1520-228-CL does not require the fuel valve position to be checked during preflight, engine start or takeoff procedures. The checklist in manufacturers technical manual TM 55-1520-228-10 , states under section 8-16 "Before Starting Engine procedures", item 3-p "FUEL VALVE HANDLE - Check ON (forward)."

No mechanical problems with the helicopter were reported by the pilot. No mechanical problems were discovered during the airframe examination.

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