LAX02LA016
LAX02LA016

On October 24, 2001, about 1400 Pacific daylight time, a McDonnell Douglas 600N helicopter, N451DL, operated by the pilot, sustained substantial damage to the tail boom and rotor blades during startup at Laughlin, Nevada. Neither the pilot nor the five passengers were injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight operating under 14 CFR Part 91, and no flight plan had been filed. The helicopter was parked on a formal helipad atop a 26-story building. After the pilot performed a routine preflight, he and the passengers boarded the helicopter for a local area flight. On engine startup, after about two revolutions of the rotor blades, three of the five blades contacted the tail boom.

The pilot stated that the helicopter was pointed south with the wind out of the north about 20 knots. The wind condition was not unusual for the area and location. The routine for a downwind liftoff was to perform a pedal turn into the wind for departure. The pilot stated that there is nothing in the Rotorcraft Flight Manual nor in the formal factory training for startup in windy conditions.

A review of the Rotorcraft Flight Manual for the 600N by Safety Board investigators found no reference to startup restrictions in windy conditions.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration Rotorcraft Certification Engineer, "The helicopter complies with the minimum requirements for main rotor blade separation from the tailboom; however, the helicopter is susceptible, and has a history of tailboom damage if the main rotor rpm drops while the helicopter is either skidding to a halt, or is stationary in a strong wind."

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