On March 6, 2002, about 1200 Alaska standard time, a Robinson R-22 helicopter, N8316N, sustained substantial damage during a landing on a ridge about 5 miles northwest of Whittier, Alaska. The helicopter was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The helicopter was operated by Alpine Air, Inc. of Girdwood, Alaska. The solo commercial pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight originated at the Girdwood Airport, Girdwood, about 1145.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on March 8, the pilot said he was practicing ridge top landings. During his last landing, he made his approach perpendicular to the ridge. During his final descent he turned the helicopter parallel to the ridge line. The helicopter descended faster then normal, and landed hard on the ridge. The main rotor struck the tail boom. Upon exiting the helicopter, the pilot found that he had landed with a 15 knot tailwind. The pilot stated there were no visual wind indicators present during his approach, and that prior to the accident, there were no known mechanical problems with the helicopter.

In a written statement, the pilot said he made half a dozen landings at various altitudes without incident. He performed out of ground effect hovers at several locations, and altitudes, checking the performance of the helicopter. His last landing was on a saddle about 4,600 feet, landing to the northeast. He said the approach was normal until he was 40 feet from, and 15 feet above, the point of intended landing. He noted his approach speed was less then 10 knots, and descent rate low. He said after he committed to the landing, his descent rate and forward speed increased dramatically. Despite his attempts to arrest the rate of descent, and the excessive forward speed, he landed hard on the saddle. Winds on the saddle were approximately 270 degrees at 12 knots, with gusts to 15 knots. He said he made all of his previous landings to the northeast because of the prevailing wind direction.

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