On November 17, 2008, about 1128 Pacific standard time, a Brantly B-2B, N2274U, made a hard landing following a loss of engine power during takeoff from Grove Field, Camas, Washington. The owner was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI) and the student pilot/owner sustained minor injuries; the helicopter sustained substantial damage to the airframe and main rotor blades. The local instructional flight departed Camas about 1110. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The CFI submitted a written statement. He indicated that the owner was learning to fly helicopters at a flight school, and was preparing to solo. The owner wanted the CFI to verify that he was ready for solo. The CFI asked several times about the helicopter’s annual status, since he knew that it had been at a maintenance shop awaiting completion of the annual inspection. The owner insured him that it was done, and signed off. The CFI had accumulated 7 hours in the Brantly.

The owner and CFI pushed the helicopter out of the hangar, and to a fuel station. They added 12 gallons, which filled the tank. They then moved the helicopter to an open area, and performed a preflight inspection. The helicopter started with no difficulties encountered. After warming the oil to operating temperatures, they checked both magnetos and noted that they were functioning properly.

The owner taxied to the runway, and then performed a normal takeoff. The CFI stated that the engine’s revolutions per minute (rpm) were in the green operating arc, and the manifold pressure was in the top of the normal operating limits. They flew around the landing pattern, and landed to the west. The CFI directed the student to fly another normal takeoff and pattern to a normal approach.

The CFI indicated that the second takeoff was progressing with the engine rpm and manifold pressure in the high normal range. About 30 to 50 feet above ground level (agl) at 45 to 50 miles per hour (mph), he said that the engine just stopped. It did not sputter, skip, or give any indications that there was a problem.

The CFI took the controls, and steered the helicopter to a grassy area on the left side of the runway. He only had a few seconds, but concentrated on keeping it upright and touching down skids first. He felt that he did as much of a run on autorotation as possible with the available altitude.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the helicopter, and noted no evidence of catastrophic engine failure. Maintenance personnel disassembled the helicopter, and removed it to a hangar. Attempts to contact the owner for further examination were unsuccessful.

Review of a video of the accident indicated that the helicopter maintained an almost level attitude throughout the descent. It descended at a constant attitude with no apparent flare/deceleration.

A factory pilot for Brantly reviewed the video and CFI’s statement. He indicated that several conditions are required in order to make a safe autorotation. The airspeed must be above 40 miles per hour, the rotor rpm must be in the green, and a deceleration must occur in the last 25 to 35 feet that will allow using airspeed to slow rate of descent. A planned autorotation can be accomplished at this altitude, but he does not recommend them. After watching the video, he did not believe that this instructor had enough time and altitude to make a safe autorotation, due to not being on the controls at the time of the loss of power.

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