FTW02LA104
FTW02LA104

On March 27, 2002, approximately 1205 mountain standard time, a Hughes 269A-1 helicopter, N8942F, was substantially damaged during a loss of control while hovering at the Fort Collins Downtown Airport, near Fort Collins, Colorado. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Freedom Flight Services LLC, of Berthoud, Colorado. The flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

On the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2), and in a telephone interview with the NTSB investigator-in-charge, the instructor pilot reported that the wind was 2 to 3 knots at the time of takeoff, but forecasted to be gusty in the afternoon. Shortly after lifting off and while hovering at an altitude of approximately 3 feet, the helicopter with the student pilot at the flight controls, encountered a very strong gust of wind and began to "wobble." The instructor took control of the helicopter, "picking it up" to approximately 15 feet, when another gust of wind hit the helicopter, turning it sideways, and then downwind. The instructor stated he was attempting "get it on the ground, but the wind continued to drive the helicopter forward with excessive nose over tendency." With the tail rotor into the wind, creating a "high power demand and limited tail rotor authority," the helicopter "skipped" along the dirt 2 or 3 times. The helicopter traveled forward 60 to 70 yards, the right strut failed, and the helicopter rolled over on its right side. The instructor pilot reported the wind was gusting to 60 knots at the time of the accident.

At 1215, the reported weather at the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, located 8 nm south of the accident site, was wind from 260 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 25 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 19 degrees C, dewpoint minus 6 degrees C, and an altimeter of 29.76 inches of mercury.

An FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, reported that all 3 main rotor blades were destroyed, the fuselage was bent, all Plexiglas broken, and the right skid was separated from the strut.

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