FTW02LA197
FTW02LA197

On June 28, 2002, at 1015 central daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N144WT, was substantially damaged during takeoff from the West Houston Airport near Houston, Texas. The helicopter was registered to Wilkinson Rental Tools, Inc., of Lafayette, Louisiana, and operated by the pilot. The private pilot, sole occupant of the helicopter, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight was originating at the time of the accident, and was destined for Mandeville, Louisiana.

The pilot reported to an FAA inspector that while attempting to takeoff, he "lifted" the helicopter vertically to a 4-5 foot hover and proceeded to make a 10 degree left pedal turn to a northerly direction. The pilot applied forward pressure on the cyclic to initiate forward flight and in a "matter of 10 to 15 feet, the rear portion of the left skid went down abruptly." The pilot immediately added forward right cyclic to compensate for this action. The helicopter started to level at an altitude of approximately 2-3 feet when it settled "hard" on the front portion of the left skid. The helicopter came to rest upright on its landing skids.

According to a witness, he observed the helicopter lift off, make a bank to the left then sharper to its right, and then very sharply to its left. Then it made a 180-degree turn descending sharply and steeply into the ground. A second witness, observed a chain attached to the left skid when the helicopter lifted off. About 3-4 feet off the ground, the helicopter movement was subdued by the chain and began to "sway" violently one direction and then another. The tail boom and left strut hit the ground, but the pilot was able to land the helicopter and shut it down.

According to the FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, a broken tie down chain was found that had been attached to the aft portion of the helicopter skid. According to the pilot, he had not placed the tie down there. An examination of the helicopter revealed that the lower portion of the vertical stabilizer was wrinkled with a tear in the leading edge. The left side of the fuselage had damage in the vicinity of the forward skid cross tube. The main rotor mast fairing was buckled directly above the cabin.

The 7,800-hour pilot reported that he had accumulated a total of 721 hours in helicopters, all of them in the same make and model as the accident aircraft.

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