ERA09LA323
ERA09LA323

On June 5, 2009, about 1210 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built, Rotorway 162F, N162RY, was destroyed in a post crash fire following an impact with terrain, while approaching Edward F. Knapp State Airport (MPV), Berlin, Vermont. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the local personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a witness, he was looking out a rear door of a building when he saw the helicopter traveling southwest, toward the airport. At the time, the engine sounded "strong." The witness then heard a "pop noise," and the helicopter nosed down, "straight into the ground."

Another witness was at a yard sale when he saw the helicopter heading for the airport. He looked down at a sales table, heard a "big pop" and then saw the helicopter "descending down." The witness subsequently proceeded in his truck to the accident scene, where he found the helicopter in flames.

A third witness was outside her office when she heard a "strange noise from an aircraft." She looked up and saw a "small helicopter pitching nose down and it immediately went completely nose down and crashed on the other side of the trees."

A fourth witness was driving along a road northwest of the airport. As she was doing so, she saw "something fall from the sky" northwest of the road. "It was metallic and long and skinny," and 10 to 20 feet in length.

Subsequent searches of the area, which were wooded, did not yield any items matching the witness's description. However, an investigator with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, reported that “what appeared to be aircraft body parts” were found approximately 1/ 2 mile from the accident site, on what would have been a left base for runway 17.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the helicopter impacted the ground about 900 feet from the approach end of runway 17, and 360 feet beyond a tree line. No evidence of tree strikes was found near the accident site.

There were also no ground scars to indicate that the helicopter skidded or slid after impacting the terrain. Debris, consisting of pieces of cabin door plexiglass and a piece of the horizontal stabilator, were located about 40 feet beyond the tree line. Additional debris was located 50 to 60 feet forward of, and 30 to 40 feet to the right of the main wreckage. A post crash fire had consumed the composite fuselage and most of the aluminum tail boom

The main rotor system was collapsed downwards, and the swashplate assembly and flight control system were destroyed. The main rotor blades exhibited fire damage, and appeared to have “very little” impact damage, with no notable damage to their leading edges.

The tail boom was melted from the fuselage attach point, to 2 to 3 feet forward of the tail rotor gearbox. The tail rotor gearbox turned freely. The tail rotor blades were broken near their bases, and one blade was impaled in the ground.

Pieces of the tail rotor drive belt were visible in the tail rotor gearbox area, and the engine drive belts were mostly melted. There was no evidence of a melted or burned main rotor drive belt, although the inspector noted that it could have been consumed in the post crash fire.

The engine and main rotor gearbox were extensively fire damaged. The helicopter was equipped with two FADECs (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) which had a recording capability. However, fire damage precluded the location of either unit.

The pilot, age 63, held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane. On his latest FAA third class medical certificate application, dated December 6, 2008, the pilot indicated 1,550 hours of flight time.

The pilot also held a "repairman experimental aircraft builder" certificate for the helicopter. According to the aircraft logbook, the pilot performed the latest conditional inspection of the helicopter on January 2, 2009, at a time in service of 147.8 hours.

A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted by the Vermont State Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. According to the autopsy report, the pilot’s cause of death was “blunt impacts of head, torso and extremities.” Toxicological testing was subsequently performed by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with no anomalies noted.

Weather, recorded at the airport at 1151, included clear skies and winds from 180 degrees true at 8 knots.

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