DFW06LA027
DFW06LA027

On November 5, 2005, approximately 0850 central standard time, a single-engine Arrow F OH-58A helicopter, N331TA, registered to and operated by Lee Catt Construction Company Inc., of West Memphis, Arkansas, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near West Memphis, Arkansas. The private pilot, sole occupant of the helicopter, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the local flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The personal flight departed a private airport near Marion, Arkansas, approximately 0835.

The accident helicopter was located on November 8, 2005 by local law enforcement in a ravine separating two cultivated fields. There were no reported eyewitnesses to the accident and no distress calls were received from the aircraft.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector performed an on scene examination of the wreckage. The FAA inspector reported the helicopter impacted terrain and came to rest on its left side. Impact scaring on the main and tail rotor blades were consistent with low rotor RPM. The inspector added that fuel was present in the fuel tank.

The wreckage of the helicopter was recovered to the facilities of Dawson Aircraft, Inc., near Clinton, Arkansas for further examination.

On November 15, 2005, representatives of Bell Helicopter and Rolls-Royce engines performed an examination of the accident helicopter under the supervision of the FAA inspector.

The representative of the airframe manufacturer reported the airframe exhibited evidence of being subjected to high vertical forces on its left side. Downward crushing of the aft cockpit bulkhead and fracturing of doorposts was also observed. The aft fuselage was fractured just forward of the tailboom attach point as a result of impact forces. The tailboom was found fractured in two locations between the horizontal stabilizer and tail rotor gearbox and another fracture forward of the horizontal stabilizer. Both tailboom fractures are overload fractures consistent with a main rotor strike during the impact sequence. Three fractures of the tail rotor drive shaft were observed. Each fracture was consistent with bending overload and no torsional fractures were observed. The airframe fuel filter was removed and drained. The fuel filter canister was approximately half full and a small amount of contaminants were present. Rotor system damage was consistent with a low rotor condition at impact.

The pilots seat pan was bent in a downward position. The seat belt was unlatched, but otherwise intact. The installed seat belts were not consistent with the type of belts that the OH-58A uses in a military configuration. The helicopter was equipped with an inertial reel behind the pilot's seat; however, no shoulder harness or shoulder harness guide were installed.

During the visual examination of the 316-horsepower Allison T63-A-700 turbo-shaft engine, the representatives found an engine pneumatic (Pc) line from the governor to the fuel control unit detached from its mounting location. The associated "B-nut" and tube ferrule which connect the Pc line to the threaded mounting port on the fuel control unit had backed-off from their normally installed locations. The representative of the engine manufacturer further reported there was no apparent damage to the engine and he noted there was no torque paint applied to any "B-nuts" on the engine in accordance with the engine maintenance manual.
The engine representative reported that complete separation of a Pc pneumatic tube would result in a reduced fuel flow to a sub-idle condition. The "B-nut" backing off from the fuel control fitting indicates that insufficient torque was applied to the "B-nut" prior to flight and the tube separation from the fitting indicates the tube was deformed and improperly fitted.

A review of the engine logbooks revealed that; two 100-hour inspections were performed in a 188.7-hour time span each involving the removal of the Pc filter and the engine fuel filter. It also involved compressor washes, oil CC check and Barfield test. At the accident site, the FAA inspector noted that the Hobbs meter on the helicopter read 292.7-hours. There were no recorded maintenance actions in the engine logbooks immediately prior to the accident flight.

The pilot held an FAA private pilot certificate with a rating for rotorcraft helicopter. At the time of his last third-class FAA medical certificate, issued in December 2004, the pilot reported his total flight time as 1,050 hours. The pilot's personal logbooks were not available for review during the course of the accident investigation.

An autopsy was completed by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing.

At 0853, the automated surface observing system at the West Memphis Municipal Airport (AWM) near West Memphis, Arkansas, located approximately 15 miles north east of the accident site reported wind from 180 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 8 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 63 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure of 30.02 inches of Mercury.

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