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On November 22, 2001, about 1330 central standard time, a Enstrom 280FX, N280XF, registered to Tread-Aire, LLC, collided with electrical wires, while approaching runway 13, at Reeves Airport, Tallassee, Alabama, while on a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The helicopter was destroyed and the commercial-rated pilot received serious injuries. The two passengers received fatal injuries. The flight originated from a residence, about 15 minutes before the accident.
The pilot stated he keeps the helicopter at his residence. On the day of the accident he flew to his sister's house. After dinner, he departed his sister's house, which is located about 5 miles from the accident site, with the two passengers. They flew around the town of Tallassee, and he then entered on the downwind leg for runway 13 at Reeves Airport. He turned on base over the Tallapoosa River, and was flying to the south. He observed a glimmer and remembers seeing power lines. The next thing he remembers is being in the river.
The pilot holds an FAA commercial pilot certificate with a rotorcraft helicopter rating and a private pilot certificate with a airplane single engine land rating. The pilot holds a flight instructor rating with a rotorcraft helicopter rating, which was issued on December 19, 2000. The pilot holds a FAA second class medical certificate, issued on May 8, 2001, with the limitation that correcting lenses be worn. The pilot last received a biennial flight review on December 19, 2000, when his flight instructor certificate was issued. The pilot reported he had accumulated 900 total flight hours, with 600 flight hours in helicopters, and 150 flight hours in the Enstrom 280FX.
The helicopter was an Enstrom model 280FX, serial number 2080, manufactured in 1997. The helicopter was equipped with a Lycoming HIO-360-F1AD, 225 horsepower engine. At the time of the accident, the helicopter and engine had accumulated 460 total flight hours. The helicopter received a annual inspection on June 1, 2001, 52 flight hours before the accident. (See aircraft logbook records, and attachment to this report.)
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The Dannelly Field, Montgomery, Alabama, 1330 surface weather observation was winds 130 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 69 degrees F, dew point temperature 38 degrees F, altimeter setting 30.02 inches Hg. Dannelly Field is located 20 nautical miles southwest of the accident site.
Wreckage and Impact Information
The helicopter crashed in the Tallapoosa River, approximately 1/4 mile south of the Thurlow Dam, Tallassee, Alabama. Examination of the crash site showed that two sets of electrical transmission lines ran east and west across the river. Each set consisted of a top wire and 3 wires about 8 feet below the top wire. The two sets of wires were about 17 feet apart. The wires drooped toward the river and were below the trees on the river banks at the midpoint of the river. The wires were about 75 feet above the river at the midpoint. The wires did not have marking balls. The helicopter collided with the top wire on the south set of wires, at about the midpoint of the river. After collision, the wire separated and rapped around the rotor mast. The main rotor, rotor mast, and transmission separated from the helicopter and were found about 500 feet south of the transmission wires. About 1,000 feet of the transmission wire was still rapped around the main rotor mast and extended to the north. The tail boom and tailrotor were found about 40 feet south of the main rotor system. The fuselage and engine were found about 70 feet southeast of the main rotor system. All components of the helicopter which are necessary for flight were located at the crash site. A small postcrash fire erupted in the engine compartment.
Examination of the helicopter at the crash site showed the main rotor blades and main rotor mast had marks consistent with striking a electrical transmission line and that the transmission line was still wrapped around the mast. The fuselage and engine came to rest lying inverted with the nose pointing to the south. The tail rotor turned freely and continuity of the tail rotor drive system was established. The main rotor head, mast and gearbox turned freely.
Examination of the helicopter after recovery from the river was performed by an FAA inspector and representatives from Enstrom Helicopter and Lycoming Engines. Continuity of the main and tail rotor drive systems was established. Continuity of the tail rotor, cyclic, and collective flight control systems was established. No evidence of precrash failure or malfunction of the helicopter structure, flight controls, and systems was found. (See Enstrom Helicopter report, an attachment to this report.)
Examination of the engine after recovery showed that the engine rotated and that continuity of the crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, and accessory drives was established. Each cylinder produced compression when the engine was rotated. The magnetos contained water and would not fire when rotated by hand. Each spark plug had deposits with a color consistent with normal engine operation. Fuel was found in the engine fuel system. No evidence of precrash failure or malfunction of the engine was found. (See Lycoming Engine report, an attachment to this report.)
Medical and Pathological Information
The pilot received serious injuries as a result of the accident. Toxicology testing of specimens obtained from the pilot after admission to the hospital were performed by Dennis V. Canfield, Ph.D., Manager, FAA Toxicology Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tests were negative for ethanol and drugs. The tests were positive 1.39 ug/ml Lidocaine.
Postmortem examination of the two passengers was conducted by Ben L. Bristol, M.D., and Emily Wofford Ward, M.D., Deputy Medical Examiners, Montgomery, Alabama. The cause of death for each was attributed to blunt force injury. No findings which could be considered causal to the accident were reported. Toxicology testing on specimens obtained from the passengers were performed by Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Auburn, Alabama. The tests were negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and drugs.
The aircraft wreckage was released by NTSB to the pilot on February 4, 2002. No components were retained fro further testing.