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On March 19, 2009, about 1645 mountain daylight time (MDT), an Enstrom 280FX, N280AD, made a hard landing following a loss of engine power near Wendover, Utah. Whirlybird Helicopters was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI) and the private pilot undergoing instruction (PUI), were not injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage when the main rotor blade struck the tailboom. The cross-country instructional flight departed Ogden, Utah, about 1440, with a planned destination of Wendover. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accident coordinator conducted a follow-up interview with both pilots, and a post accident examination of the helicopter.
The flight instructor stated that prior to departure the helicopter was serviced with a total of 32 gallons (210 pounds) of fuel, of which 2 gallons were unusable. The flight instructor stated that during the preflight they did not physically check the fuel, but relied on the fuel gauge. According to the pilot the helicopter used 16.6 to 18.5 gallons per hour at an average ground speed of 100 knots.
The pilots reported about 2 hours into the flight, and approximately 5 miles east of the destination, the fuel pressure light came on and the engine began to sputter and miss. The flight instructor took control of the helicopter and began an autorotation, during which the engine quit. The helicopter subsequently contacted the ground and the main rotor blades struck the tail boom sheering the tail rotor shaft.
During the recovery of the helicopter it was observed by the recovery personnel that both fuel tanks appeared to be empty.
A FAA inspector performed a post accident inspection of the helicopter. During the inspection, less than 1 gallon of fuel was noted in both fuel tanks. When power was applied, the low fuel psi warning light illuminated. After 1 gallon of fuel was added to each fuel tank, the low fuel psi warning light extinguished and the engine was started.