On May 24, 2004, about 2030 Pacific daylight time, a Bell 212HP, N362EH, main rotor blade made contact with the upper wire cutter device during an attempted landing near Chester, California. The helicopter was registered to Era Aviation, Inc., and operated by the United States Forest Service as a public-use flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 133. The airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The local flight departed Chester Fire Base, Chester, at an unknown time for the purpose of firefighting operations. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed.

In a written statement, Era Aviation Inc., reported that the purpose of the flight was for the pilot to execute a water drop via the use of a 100-foot line with a Bambi bucket attached. After an uneventful drop, the pilot was instructed to touchdown at a landing zone (LZ) that had been previously been cleared. Upon arriving at the LZ, the pilot selected an area to land clear from other aircraft and began the descent toward rough terrain with a slope of about 8 to 9 degrees. As the helicopter touched down facing up the slope, the pilot lowered the collective, resulting in the helicopter rocking backward.

As the helicopter rocked backward, the pilot increased the collective in an effort to relocate to a level area and attempt the landing again. He repositioned the helicopter forward and touched down again, while lowering the collective and centering the cyclic. As the helicopter settled onto the skids, the nose pitched upward and the helicopter slid backward. The pilot quickly increased the collective and moved the cyclic forward in an effort to reestablish the hover. As the helicopter began to stabilize in the hover, the pilot felt a "shutter" and heard a corresponding "thump."

The pilot elected to land in a different area and shut down the engine. Upon exiting the helicopter, the pilot noted that it appeared that a portion of the skid had dug into the terrain. He did not complete a further examination of the helicopter because he did not think it incurred damage during the landing. He loaded the helicopter and returned back to Chester Fire Base without mishap.

During a routine daily inspection, the operator's aviation maintenance technician found that one of the main rotor blades was damaged. He noted that the blade appeared to have come into contact with the upper wire cutter device. The damaged blade was sent to Bell Helicopter for repair. They reported that the subject blade was damaged beyond repair.

Era Aviation Inc., reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter. They further stated that they had contracted the helicopter to the U. S. Forest Service. On this particular flight, the U. S. Forest Service had subcontracted the helicopter out to the California Department of Forestry for firefighting operations.

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