DFW07LA061
DFW07LA061

On January 27, 2007, approximately 1616 central standard time, a single-engine Hughes 269A helicopter, N8503A, was destroyed during a forced landing following a reported loss of engine power north of the Covey Trails Airport (X09), near Fulshear, Texas. The helicopter was registered to Virgin Ventures, LLC, of Houston, Texas, and was being operated by pilot. The private pilot, sole occupant of the helicopter, received minor injuries. No flight plan was filed for the local maintenance test flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The owner of the helicopter reported that the number 2 cylinder and the exhaust valve had been replaced. The mechanic completed the initial engine check and cylinder break-in. He then asked a pilot to perform a short test flight to verify the installation of the new cylinder assembly. The pilot was reported to have hovered the helicopter for 15 to 20 minutes before he hovered-taxied the helicopter to the airport's fuel farm to refuel. After refueling, the pilot hovered the helicopter 3 more times up and down runway 17-35.

The pilot stated on the accident report (NTSB Form 6120.1), that he had inspected and preformed a normal hot startup per the Hughes 269A checklist. The pilot stated that after takeoff, while at an altitude of 500 feet above the ground, the helicopter "experienced a very large yaw." The pilot added that he countered the yaw by applying opposite pedal input as he proceeded to enter an autorotation, as he suspected he had a complete loss of engine power. The pilot further stated that he was forced to maneuver the helicopter to avoid ground obstacles which resulted in a loss of rotor rpm. The pilot added that the helicopter descended vertically and impacted the ground from an estimated altitude of 50 feet above the ground, resulting in a hard landing. The helicopter impacted the ground in a northwesterly direction, made a 180-degree turn, and came to rest in an easterly heading. The accident site was located about 2,000-feet north of the departure end of runway 35.

An Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, who responded to the accident site, performed a detailed an on-scene examination of the helicopter. According to the inspector, all three main rotor blades were destroyed and the tail boom was separated from the airframe. The landing gear skid had collapsed as a result of the hard landing. Ten gallons of aviation fuel were drained from the helicopter prior to its recovery.

A second examination of the helicopter was performed jointly by an FAA inspector and a representative from the manufacturer of the helicopter. The examination revealed the engine was capable of rotation by hand without binding. The engine components were in good condition and engine control continuity was established. The engine fuel filter was found to be clean and non-obstructed and clean fuel was noted in the filter. No anomalies with the aircraft or engine were reported by the FAA inspector. Further examination of the airframe was conducted. A clutch spring cable assembly was sent to the Boeing Engineering Laboratory for further analysis. The laboratory analysis report indicated that the cable assembly was fractured due to overload. The reason for the reported loss of engine power could not determined.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane. His last FAA third class medical certificate was issued in November 2006. The pilot had accumulated a total of 1,200-hours, with 80-hours in rotorcraft, of which 40-hours were in the same make and model helicopter as the accident aircraft.

Weather reported at the Sugarland Regional Airport, 11 nautical miles southeast of the Covey Trails Airport, was wind from 310 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 64 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.94 inches of Mercury.

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