On March 28, 2002, at 1000 eastern standard time, an Aerospatiale Helicopter AS315B, N49525, collided with the ground shortly after takeoff, from Hortense, Georgia. The helicopter was registered to Roberts Aircraft Company, and operated by the commercial pilot for Southern States Cooperative Incorporated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 137, and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local agricultural application flight. The commercial pilot received minor injuries and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The flight was originating from Hortense, Georgia, at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, he was 100 feet in the air, at 40 knots, when he heard a bang in the tail section of the helicopter and thought he felt something break loose on the helicopter. There was an immediate loss of power to the main rotor system. The pilot attempted to flare the helicopter as it went into the trees. The helicopter impacted trees at approximately 30 knots, sustaining substantial damage.

Examination of the helicopter revealed severe impact damage, including crushed skids, twisting of the tail boom, and rotor blade damage resulting from impact with trees and ground. The tail rotor drive shaft was attached although bent. The engine mount structure was crushed downward, moving the engine out of alignment with the main rotor gearbox. The short shaft connecting the engine to the main gear box was damaged and the driveshaft separated just aft of the connecting flange. Examination of the mounting hardware revealed that connecting bolts had not been safety wired at the time of the accident.

Examination of the helicopters maintenance records and an interview with the helicopter mechanic found that the helicopter had undergone a 400 hour inspection about two days prior to the accident or 10 hours of operation. The mechanic confirmed that he had removed and reinstalled the short shaft prior to the accident but could not recall if he had safety wired the connecting bolts as called for in the helicopters maintenance manual.

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