On August 21, 2009, about 1500 Pacific daylight time, a Robinson R44, N19DV, collided with terrain near Tonopah, Nevada. Dooley Aviation, Inc., was operating the helicopter under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certificated private pilot and two passengers sustained serious injuries. The helicopter sustained substantial damage from impact forces. The cross-country personal flight departed Tonopah about 1400. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
One of the passengers had flown with the pilot on the previous flights during the day. He stated that they landed at Tonopah, topped off the fuel tanks, and picked up the other passenger. He noted a slower takeoff than the other flights, and estimated that they were airborne about an hour prior to the accident.
The passenger said that they had just climbed over a hill, and made a low banking turn. They were maneuvering to get behind a car that was in the off-road rally race. He saw a steep cliff-like ridge ahead, and he was concerned about hitting it. As they cleared the ridge by about 20 feet, he heard the engine sound change pitch. The helicopter banked right, and slowed down. He heard the pilot say no several times as well as “come on,” and heard a horn sounding. Then the helicopter collided with the ground.
A ground witness observed the helicopter flying over the race course, and observed it bank and then descend as if starting to make a landing. She did not observe the impact, but did observe a dust cloud.
A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the wreckage at the accident site. He reported that the helicopter appeared to hit the terrain on the heel of the right skid. It bounced, and then slid, which separated both skids. The underside of the nose and fuselage made contact; the helicopter turned to the left, and rolled onto its right side. The inspector estimated that the operating weight of the helicopter was 2,300 pounds at the time of the accident. The maximum certified operating gross weight is 2,500 pounds.
Recovery personnel reported that fuel was in each tank, and fuel was dripping from the left tank after being loaded on a trailer. The fuel selector appeared to be in the on position.
The nearest official weather reporting station was Tonopah (KTPH). An aviation routine weather report (METAR) for KTPH was issued at 1456 PDT. It stated: winds from 150 degrees at 8 knots gusting to 17 knots; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 35/95 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit; dew point -3/27 degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit; altimeter 30.11 inches of mercury.
The accident site elevation was about 6,600 feet mean sea level (msl). The density altitude was about 10,300 feet.
Investigators from the Safety Board and Robinson Helicopters examined the wreckage. They observed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
The Robinson investigator provided the performance charts for the helicopter. Examination of the charts indicated that, at the weather parameters for this flight, the OGE (out of ground effect) and IGE (in ground effect) capabilities of the helicopter were exceeded.