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On June 3, 2002, about 2130 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Rotorway International Exec 162F, N268MA, registered to Helicopters & Airplanes, Inc., crashed onto the roof of a house near Tampa, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal, local flight. The helicopter was substantially damaged and the private-rated pilot, the sole occupant, sustained minor injuries. There were no injuries to the three occupants of the house which sustained damage to the roof, and interior. The flight originated about 48 minutes earlier from a private helipad located at the family business in Tampa, Florida.
According to one witness, she first heard a helicopter then observed the helicopter circling and observed what she thought was the pilot lose control of the helicopter. She reported seeing the helicopter spinning quickly around the axis of the main rotor, and when that happened she heard the "blade" noise increase to a very deep loud pitch. The helicopter then lost altitude but returned to a slow circle. She reported that the described events occurred twice and it appeared to her that the pilot would regain control but would lose altitude. The helicopter disappeared behind trees and she heard a sound associated with an impact.
Individuals located in the house that the helicopter collided with reported hearing the helicopter flying then reported hearing the collision. Two of the occupants of the house went onto the roof to assist the pilot. One of the individuals reported smelling an odor of alcohol on the pilot's breath immediately after the accident. That person reported the pilot did not advise him why the helicopter had crashed. The pilot was transported to a hospital for examination.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating on July 2, 2000. He was issued a third class medical certificate with no limitations on June 1, 2001. A review of FAA records indicated the pilot did not have any previous accident or incidents, or previous enforcement actions.
A review of the medical application for the June 2001 medical revealed he listed his total flight time as 292 hours. Further review of the application revealed the pilot checked the "yes" block in response to the question, "History of ...any conviction(s) involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug...."
The pilot was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) on May 9, 2001; he pleaded nolo contendere to the charge on October 4, 2001.
The pilot had attended flight training conducted at the helicopter manufacturer's facility on two occasions, the first occurring in January 2000, and the last occurring from April 16-20, 2001. During the last training dates, the pilot received 10.0 hours of flight instruction. The pilot paid to attend additional training at the facility in January 2002, but he did not attend that training.
The data plate attached to the tail boom of the helicopter indicated it was a model 162F, and was assigned serial number 6383. The helicopter was manufactured in February 2000, and was built by Helicopters and Airplanes, Inc. The helicopter was equipped with a 150 horsepower Rotorway International model RI 162F engine, and also with two fully automated digital electronic control (FADEC) units capable of recording and storing data from several engine sensors.
Maintenance records were not available; therefore, no determination was made as to when the last condition inspection occurred.
A review of the Operating Limitations issued on April 24, 2000, indicates that in part for Phases I and II, "The pilot in command of this aircraft shall, as applicable, hold an appropriate category/class rating and type rating per 14 CFR Part 61...."
A METAR weather observation taken at the Tampa International Airport (KTPA) on the day of the accident at 2153, or approximately 23 minutes after the accident indicates the wind was from 330 degrees at 6 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, scattered clouds existed at 10,000 feet and overcast clouds existed at 25,000 feet, the temperature was 28 degrees Celsius, the dew point was missing, and the altimeter was 29.96 inHg. The accident site was located approximately 9 nautical miles and 056 degrees from KTPA.
The pilot was not in contact with any FAA Air Traffic Control facility.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) did not examine the helicopter at the accident site. The NTSB did examine the helicopter following recovery, which revealed that one of the two main rotor blades was bent down; the other blade was fractured approximately 6 feet outboard from the attach point. The separated piece of the main rotor blade was recovered from the accident site. One of the tail rotor blades was separated and was recovered a short time after the accident by one of the owner's of the home. Examination of the recovered blade revealed chordwise crushing to the leading edge at the blade tip. Examination of the other tail rotor blade revealed damage on the blade tip. Flight control continuity was confirmed for collective, cyclic, and for tail rotor.
Examination of the engine compartment revealed the coolant reservoir contained coolant, the drive belt that operates the water pump was intact but loose due to impact damage to the alternator bracket. All four cooling fan belts, tail rotor drive belts, and main rotor drive belt were intact. The main rotor blades were removed in preparation for an engine run; no repairs were made to the engine in preparation for the engine run. The engine was started and operated with NTSB oversight for approximately 17 minutes with no obvious discrepancies noted. During the engine run it was operated independently using only ignition system No. 1, followed by ignition system No. 2. Additionally, during the engine run the engine was operated independently using only No. 1 FADEC unit, followed by the No. 2 FADEC unit. During the engine run, the engine coolant temperature gauge in the cockpit indicated 170 degrees (green arc range), no coolant leakage was noted. The engine, water pump, and both FADEC units were removed from the helicopter and sent to the helicopter manufacturer's facility for a proposed engine run with FAA oversight, and read out of the FADEC units.
With FAA oversight, the engine was started and operated with a load applied for approximately 19 minutes. The engine was run with the water pump installed on the engine at the time of the accident. No discrepancies were noted with the engine during the engine run. The FADEC primary engine control unit (ECU) was downloaded following the engine run which contained a total of 1 hour 59 minutes of data. The downloaded data included the accident flight, the postaccident engine run with NTSB oversight, and the postaccident engine run with FAA oversight. The downloaded data associated with the accident flight indicates that the yellow lamp status sensor light illuminated during engine warm-up following engine start, the light is associated with the water temperature sensor The trouble code was reset 1 minute later and remained extinguished for the remainder of the accident flight. The data for the accident flight also reflects the maximum engine coolant temperature was 82 degrees Celsius (179.6 degrees Fahrenheit) which was recorded occurring last approximately 10 minutes into the approximate 48-minute flight. The downloaded data for the engine run with FAA oversight revealed a fault code associated with the water temperature sensor began 18 seconds after the engine was started and lasted 4 seconds. The light then remained extinguished for the engine run. According to personnel from the helicopter manufacturer, the water temperature sensor reading is used primarily for changing the fuel mixture in cold weather start-up; the sensor has no effect on engine performance once the engine has been warmed up.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Medical Officer reviewed: 1) the pilot's medical records from the hospital that treated him immediately following the accident, and 2) medical records from his private physician. The NTSB Medical Officer prepared a factual report based on his review of those records/documents. The factual report indicates that with respect to the pilot's medical records from the hospital, a physician note at 2300 hours (approximately 1.5 hours after the accident) indicating slurred speech. Testing by hospital personnel of a blood sample taken from the pilot approximately 1 hour 40 minutes after the helicopter accident indicated an ethanol level of 136 mg/dL, or .136 percent by weight in blood. A nursing note without a time stamp indicates the pilot admitted to ingesting ethanol "earlier today." The primary diagnosis on the emergency department physician note is, "ethanol intoxication, concussion." A nursing note at 0235 hours on the 4th of June indicates the pilot was, "...ambulated with parents to home." The factual report indicates that with respect to the pilot's medical records from his private physician, on April 29, 2002, the pilot's chief complaint includes insomnia. There is no other history noted regarding insomnia and physical examination does not include documentation of any neurologic or psychiatric evaluation. The pilot was prescribed 5 mg Ambien (zolpidem), 1 taken orally at bedtime as needed. On May 23, 2002, the physician notes indicates the pilot "comes in for sleep disorder and depression." Physical examination includes in part "Psychiatric: normal mood and affect." Impressions were "Insomnia" and "Chronic Depression." The same doctor provided 20 mg samples of Celexa (citalopram) to take one half tablet daily , and prescribed 10 mg Ambien, 1/2 to 1 tablet to be taken orally at bedtime as needed. The medical records from the pilot's private physician do not indicate a request for psychiatric consultation, or an inquiry by the physician regarding suicidal intent, or alcohol/drug use.
Toxicological analysis was performed by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory (CAMI), located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, of a blood specimen taken while the pilot was hospitalized approximately 1 hour 40 minutes after the helicopter accident. Testing for carbon monoxide or cyanide was not performed by CAMI. The results by CAMI was positive in the blood for ethanol (105 mg/dL, or .105 percent by weight), acetone (1 mg/dL, mg/hg), acetaldehyde (8 mg/dL, mg/hg), citalopram (0.017 ug/ml,ug/g), and zolpidem (0.433 ug/ml,ug/g).
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Review of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.17 revealed no person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while under the influence of alcohol while having .04 percent by weight or more alcohol in the blood, or while using a drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety.
Both sides of the tail boom were marked with "N69YY." A review of FAA records revealed no listing for registration marking N69YY. Further search of FAA records using the serial number of the accident helicopter (6383), listed the assigned registration number as "N268MA", with the registered owner listed as Helicopters & Airplanes, Inc.
As discussed in the Wreckage and Impact section of this report, the maximum engine coolant temperature recorded during the accident flight was 82 degrees Celsius, or 179.6 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the helicopter "Pilot Operating Handbook", the engine coolant temperature green arc (normal operating range) is 140 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
An individual who flew in the helicopter on a 1.0 to 1.5 hour flight with the accident pilot on the accident date reported that before the flight, he smelled what he thought was vodka on the pilots breath but the individual did not think the pilot was drunk. The individual asked the pilot if he had been drinking and the pilot's response was he was "not drunk." The individual reported that during the flight, the engine did not "miss a beat" though the pilot did mention that the "oil" was getting hot. The individual reported seeing 2 lights illuminated on the overhead panel. One light was on the whole time and one "red" light came on towards the end of the flight. After the red light came on the pilot immediately proceeded direct to the departure location (helipad located at the family business) and landed.
The helicopter was equipped with one electrically activated red colored clutch indicator light on the overhead panel. The helicopter was also equipped with 6 horizontally oriented indicator lights on the instrument panel above the combination engine/main rotor rpm gauge. Three of the six indicator lights are red in color and indicate either when engine rpm is less than 1,800, or when the primary or secondary engine control unit (ECU) are off. The oil temperature indication was by gauge only, there was no indicator light.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) personnel did not have an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the accident with the pilot due to the fact that he was fatally injured in an airplane accident the following morning at approximately 0822 hours, which was approximately 10 hours 52 minutes after the helicopter accident or 5 hours 47 minutes after being released from the hospital. NTSB report MIA02FA104 discusses the facts, conditions, and circumstances of the airplane accident.
The helicopter minus the retained engine with water pump and two FADEC units, and one tail rotor blade assembly was released to the pilot's mother (Pat Antinori) on September 26, 2002. The retained components were released to John A. Baird, controller of American Bedding Industries, on November 19, 2004.