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On April 27, 2005, at 1800 eastern daylight time, a Hughes 369FF helicopter, N5252Y, operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was substantially damaged when it dragged a landing-gear skid and rolled over during a tactical training flight at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia. The certificated commercial pilots received minor injuries. One passenger/jumper on the helicopter received minor injuries, and a recently deployed jumper on the ground was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The public use flight which departed an Academy helipad, about 1755, was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
According to conversations with a Supervisory Special Agent, an FBI preliminary report, and an interview summary from the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to perform "fast rope" insertions by helicopter to the roof of a one-story "building." The building was a training apparatus, erected in a designated training area, with a second-story facade attached.
The helicopter approached the building from the front, with two jumpers posted on skid-mounted pods on either side of the aircraft. The helicopter came to a hover with the fuselage over the building, and the tailboom suspended over the grassy area in front of the building. The helicopter landing-gear skids were at the same approximate altitude as the top edge of the second-story facade.
The jumper on the left pod deployed to the rooftop by fast rope without difficulty. The flight crew then decided to reposition the helicopter over the building prior to deploying the jumper from the right pod.
The helicopter hovered to the right, the pilot in the left seat felt a "bump" in the airframe, and announced to the copilot that he "might be rubbing a skid." The pilot adjusted the flight controls to free the skid, and to maneuver a safe distance from the building facade.
The pilot determined the helicopter was free of the obstacle, and adjusted the collective pitch control to raise the helicopter above the top of the facade. Almost immediately, the nose of the helicopter pitched up "uncontrollably," and the pilot countered with full forward cyclic.
The nose continued to pitch up, and the pilot maneuvered the helicopter to the right to avoid the jumper on the apparatus below. The helicopter rolled right, contacted trees next to the building, and then descended through the trees where it struck the ground in a nose-down attitude.
Examination of the damaged building revealed paint transfers consistent with the exterior of the helicopter skids and cross tubes.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. He reported 9,000 total hours of flight experience, with 3,000 hours in make and model of the accident aircraft. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on December 2, 2004.
The copilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for rotorcraft helicopter and instrument helicopter. He reported 2,200 total hours of flight experience, with 400 hours in make and model. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on April 12, 2004.
The helicopter was a Hughes 369 FF. The helicopter had accrued 2,132 hours of total flight time. The most recent annual inspection was completed on April 8, 2005, and the helicopter accrued 44 hours since that date.
After the accident, the pilot reported that there were no deficiencies with the performance and handling of the helicopter.
At 1755, the weather reported at the Quantico Marine Corps Airfield, Quantico, Virginia, included scattered clouds at 3,000 feet and a broken layer at 9,000 feet. The winds were from 320 degrees at 10 knots. The temperature was 69 degrees Fahrenheit, and the dewpoint was 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
The helicopter was examined and photographed at the site by a Special Agent of the FBI. The agent's unit of assignment was independent of the one involved in the accident. Examination revealed that all major components of the helicopter were accounted for at the scene. The helicopter came to rest inverted, about 30 feet southeast of the training apparatus facade. Several angularly cut trees, saplings, and branches surrounded the helicopter. Pieces of angularly cut wood were scattered about the site.
The main rotor blades were separated, and fractured near the hub. The blade fragments were scattered about the crash site. One rotor blade, largely intact, came to rest 290 feet southwest of the main wreckage.
The tailboom was separated from the fuselage, and came to rest about 25 feet southeast of the main wreckage.
The Bureau convened an Aviation Safety Council Meeting on August 18, 2005. The elements of the accident were discussed, and operational changes and procedural improvements were adopted at the conclusion of the meeting.