On July 3, 2001, about 1545 eastern daylight time, a Hughes 369A, N539, registered to Helicopter Associates, Inc., lost engine power and impacted into the ground while on approach to the Anson County Airport in Wadesboro, North Carolina. The helicopter was operated by the commercial pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the maintenance test flight. The pilot was not injured, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The local flight departed Wadesboro, North Carolina, at 1540.

The pilot stated that the engine quit during approach for landing at approximately 100 to 150 feet above ground level. The pilot performed an emergency autorotation into high grass. Upon landing, the helicopter began to nose over. The pilot pulled back on the cyclic and the main rotor blades struck the tail boom.

Examination of the helicopter on-scene found that the helicopter had landed in a plowed field with tall grass and deep furrows. The left skid was damaged, and the tail boom was separated. Additionally, the fuel tanks were void of fuel. Examination of the instrument panel found that with the master power switch on, the fuel quantity indicator showed 50 pounds of fuel, and the "low fuel" warning light was not illuminated. Further examination determined that the low fuel warning light did "press to test good," and when the leads were shorted at the fuel quantity transmitter, the light did come on. All other fuel quantity indicator components checked good. It was found that the fuel quantity probe stuck indicating 50 pounds of fuel and prevented the low fuel warning light from operating correctly. There was no evidence of mechanical malfunction or component failure.

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